Christian Zionists march for Israel

2012-10-04 19:52

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Jerusalem - Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world marched through the streets of Jerusalem on Thursday alongside Israeli soldiers and workers, in an annual show of solidarity with the Jewish state.

A spokesperson for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) said about 5 000 pilgrims from around 90 countries took part, out of a total participation that Israeli officials estimated at about 25 000.

ICEJ spokesperson David Parsons said the turnout of pilgrims was about the same as last year, although there had been some cancellations from those fearing an imminent outbreak of war between Israel and Iran.

"I understand that there's been quite a few cancellations, at least from North America and some other areas, because of jitters about something breaking out here," he told AFP.

Christian delegates have been holding a conference in Jerusalem during the week-long Sukkot festival - the Feast of Tabernacles - which the Jewish faithful have been celebrating since Sunday.

Organisers said that participants included representatives of the Israel Allies Foundation's Chairmen's Conference, which brings together pro-Israel parliamentarians from governments around the world.

The World Jewish Congress said it hosted a meeting of lawmakers from 17 countries who "endorsed Israel's right to defend itself against existential threats such as those posed by the Iranian regime and its nuclear programme."

Israel and much of the international community believe Iran's nuclear project masks a weapons drive, despite repeated denials from Tehran, and the Jewish state has warned it could launch a pre-emptive military strike.

Thursday's march included uniformed workers of the state-owned electricity corporation and other utilities, labour union representatives, staff of the national airline EL Al and bank employees, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Among the Christian participants there were the familiar delegations from Europe and North America as well as a large contingent from China and what Parsons said was a 1 300-strong group from Brazil.

"This year more than 50% of our pilgrims are from developing nations: Latin America, Africa and Asia," he said.

Among the Israeli spectators lining the closed streets of central Jerusalem, several held signs reading, "Thank you for supporting Israel."

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