tof Jerusalem this week in a sign of solidarity with he people of Israel, BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, October 2. The demonstration of love comes as security concerns lead other Christian organizations to abandon plans to travel to the region, including the Evangelical Press Association, which cancelled its 2002 convention in Jerusalem.
"Christians all over the world love them, pray for them and believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," said United States Rev. Glen E. Howard an associate of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, who supports the event.
He also urged believers outside Israel to build temporary huts and celebrate this week the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot) with the Jewish people, as they remember how God lead them out of Egyptian bondage.
Howard arrived in Jerusalem Friday, September 28, from the Hungarian Capital Budapest, where he founded the International Church of Budapest, and is still active in evangelical work.
"After the usual intense interrogation that normally precedes any EL AL (Israeli Airlines) flight, a supervisor came over to me and said, "Do you know what’s going on in Israel at this time?" I assured him that I did and he replied, "And you still want to go?" Again I answered in the affirmative. He just shook his head and said, "OK," and walked away," said Howard in an e-mail message from Jerusalem.
He stressed that other Jewish people "have mentioned how surprised and appreciative they are that even when Jews won’t come to Israel, Christians will and for the purpose of declaring their love for God’s land and His people."
Howard, an experienced traveler to Israel, admits however that walking through the streets of the Jewish Capital is not without danger, as Palestinians recall their one-year-old Intifada (uprising) against what they regard as Jewish occupation.
"You may have heard there was a car bomb in Jerusalem…Our report was that it probably went off prematurely near the Bethlehem area. We’ll probably never know what its intended destination was," he said about one the several violent incidents his group encountered since last weekend.
The arrival of outsiders has also attracted the attention of Israeli authorities, who are taking part of the global fight against terrorism. Howard said he was "followed" on at least one occasion.
"I walked over to an armed guard and stood there while this man walked away, turning to look back – and making eye contact with me, then finally going around a corner," he said.
"I took this opportunity to head the other way and quickly found some new areas and new people. I never saw him again and I have no idea who he was or what he wanted, but don’t think I want to know. Surely I don’t look like a terrorist."
The tensions have had an impact on Israel’s economy, analysts say, as tourist stay away. Howard has noticed that first hand on the streets of Jerusalem. "Upon arrival at the Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem I discovered that I and an American doctor and his family are the only foreigners in the hotel as almost the only registered guests," recalled Howard.
"This is an area of many large hotels near the Central Bus Station, but I have been told several of the hotels have gone out of business due to the loss of tourism. Even in the Crown Plaza, right next to the convention center, there were only 3 people sitting in the lobby drinking coffee, "the Reverend reported.
"On this trip I have noticed a lot more beggars on the street…mostly men apparently suffering from the effects of drugs or alcohol. Also, there are a lot more people dressed in the black suits and black hats than before. It seems that almost all the men are wearing keppas. You see lots of families like a man along with his wife and 4, 5 or 6 kids. I think lots of Jews may be trying to compete with the Palestinians in populating the country through the womb."
Howard said he has information that Christians wanting to help Israel are moving into Palestinian areas and buying homes, to help the Jews and "occupy the land". He said a group of believers have called for 500-thousand Christians to call themselves Ephriamites and move back into the area of Samaria.
Christian scholars and some Messianic Jews have criticized these kind of developments saying that God will give Israel victory and much more land when, Biblically, the moment is right. They argue that by that time, Israel will no longer have to spend allocate most of its budget on Defense, as is currently the case.
Meanwhile Jewish people are trying to pray for peace during the Feast of Tabernacles, marked Monday, October 1, with a huge barbecue near the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. "It will be a jubilant time with a feast, a pageant in the hills, accompanied by beautiful Jewish music, dancing and rejoicing in the Lord. Under the stars with the moon reflecting off the Dead Sea, it’s an incredible experience," Howard said.
Howard believes it is important to pray for Israel, at a time when the United States launches its war on terror. "I truly believe this is a wonderful time to be alive and see what God is doing in His World."