More than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from over 80 nations marched through the streets of Jerusalem on Tuesday to show their support for the nation of Israel.
Joining tens of thousands of Israelis, the Christian pilgrims made their way from a park near parliament to the gates of the Old City chanting their support and praying for peace in the Holy Land.
The procession, protected by some 20,000 police officers, was part of this week’s Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, as it is known in Hebrew.
Since the special observance of the biblical tradition was revived, thousands of Christians each year join the festivities in Jerusalem, making it Israel’s largest annual tourist event.
This year marked the 30th year that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has sponsored the event to "unequivocally stand with and advocate for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty."
"Our ascent to Jerusalem each year is ... a statement of faith that we believe the day will soon come spoken of by the prophet Zechariah when all nations will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem," explained David Parsons, media director for ICEJ.
"And the reason Tabernacles becomes the most universally celebrated Feast is likely because it marks the time when Messiah arrives to vanquish the rebellion of the nations and set up his millennial Kingdom," he added.
According to a survey conducted last year by the Joshua Fund, most American Christians – regardless of their denomination and background – say they feel a "moral and biblical obligation" to support the State of Israel, with nearly 90 percent of evangelicals saying this.
Over the past 20 years, U.S. Christian Zionists have poured billions of dollars into Israel, believing the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 is in accordance with biblical prophecy.
Though this belief is primarily held by dispensationalist Christians, who maintain that the nation of Israel referred to in the Bible is distinct from the Church, it is not exclusive to that group and has been accepted by some supersessionist Christians, who view God's relationship with Christians as being either the "replacement" or "completion" of the promise made to the Jews.
A large majority of the former group, however, has been noted and criticized for their “blind” unconditional support of Israel and for withholding the gospel of Jesus Christ from Jews and the Jewish nation to keep the peace. The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus – a group in the Israeli parliament that seeks to build cooperation between the parliament and Christian leaders – does not associate with groups that share the gospel.
Annually, evangelical Christians make up one-third of American tourists that visit Israel – second only to American Jews, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
The ministry estimated the income from Christians who traveled this year to Israel for the Sukkot week to be between $16 million and $18 million, as some 8,000 Christians amounted to 56,000 hotel nights.
This year's Sukkot, which started on Saturday, will conclude Friday.