Thousands of Christians March in Jerusalem Parade

JERUSALEM - Thousands of Christians from around the world, waving blue and white Israeli flags, marched Wednesday in a colorful holiday parade in Jerusalem to commemorate a Jewish holiday and show their support for Israel.

The annual parade to mark the week-long holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of the Tabernacles, was the latest display of the growing alliance between evangelical Christians and the Jewish state.

The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, a global organization that promotes ties between Israel and the world's Christian communities, sponsored the event in which 3,000 people from nearly 100 countries participated.

Christian Zionists are among the staunchest supporters of Israel, providing generous financial help and political backing. But some dovish Israelis are uncomfortable with the warm ties with evangelists because of their support for West Bank Jewish settlements and criticism of peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Israelis are also wary of what they see as the source of the unbridled support — a belief by some evangelical groups in a final, apocalyptic battle between good and evil, in which Jesus returns and Jews either accept Christianity or perish.

Pilgrims from Brazil were among the most enthusiastic marchers, carrying drums and dancing. "We love you, Israel!" they cheered, and Israelis lining the street shouted back "Shalom!"

Claire Perry from Mechanicsville, Va. was part of the American delegation. Wearing a T-shirt with the American and Israeli flags on front and "Bless Israel Team" on the back, she said she was came to bless Israel and deliver humanitarian aid supplies. She said she felt "obligated to Israel for being able to share its salvation."

The march was part of a week of activities coinciding with Sukkot, which commemorates the 40-year desert trek of the biblical Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. The holiday began Monday and ends Oct. 21.