Thousands of Christian Pilgrims March in Jerusalem After Years-long Pandemic Hiatus
Roughly 3,000 pilgrims from 70 nations take part in popular Feast of Tabernacles celebration
Thousands of Christian pilgrims took to the streets of Jerusalem on Thursday as part of the 43rd annual Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations.
The colorful celebration marks the largest Christian gathering in Israel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to the popular parade, which was canceled in recent years due to travel restrictions.
An estimated 3,000 pilgrims from 70 nations took part in the event in addition to thousands of Israelis, according to the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ), which helped sponsor it.
“For Bible-believing Christians around the world this march is our chance to tell Israel, to tell the Jewish people and through the media to tell the world that we believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel now and forever,” Barry Denison, vice president of operations at the ICEJ, told The Media Line.
A staple in the city since 1955, the Jerusalem March takes place during the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.
In its earliest iterations, the event was organized by the IDF as a kind of military parade, but over the years, more and more civilians began taking part.
Christian pilgrims first joined in on the annual celebration in 1980 in a show of solidarity with the State of Israel.
“We quickly became the most popular part of it because of the flags, the nations, the colors and everything,” David Parsons, Media Director at the ICEJ, told The Media Line. “We’ve been the real draw of the march for the past 43 years now.”
Numbering 660 million people, evangelicals are the fastest-growing stream of Christians in the world.
Thursday’s march included delegations from dozens of countries, with attendees marching and dancing as locals stood on the sidelines cheering and waving.
“This is our first time here but we’re going to be coming more and more,” said Stella, a pilgrim from Toronto, Canada. “It’s such a thrill to see so many nations together supporting the State of Israel and loving the people of Israel.”
Among those marching was also Peyman, an Iranian-American who was visiting Israel and participating in the parade for the first time.
“It’s important for me because I want to represent my country, especially these days,” he told The Media Line. “My country is in pain and I want to show our flag.”
Others expressed joy over following their religious beliefs.
“The reason we are here is because of the Bible and because of Jesus,” said Juha Ketola, a pastor from Finland. “The Bible is very clear: The city of Jerusalem is undivided and belongs to Israel so we are here to show our support publicly. We stand with Israel.”
Manasa Kolivuso, a pilgrim from Fiji, echoed those sentiments and noted the significance of the city of Jerusalem to those of the Christian faith.
“As far as the Christian faith is concerned these are our roots,” Kolivuso said. “Jesus Christ our savior was a Jew so there is nothing compared to this and it’s super special to be here!”
The march was led by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, together with ICEJ President Dr. Juergen Buehler.