Soft rock infused with hymns from a 30-person band and choir, invocations in a multitude of tongues, worshippers up on their feet with arms outstretched toward the heavens and perhaps most important of all, a break to plug El Al Israel airlines.
Pilgrims from more than 80 countries attended the Christian evangelical service in Jerusalem on Sunday. It was one of the highlights of the annual Feast of Tabernacles festivities that coincide with Succot, and are organised by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ).
Beamed around the world by the London-based GOD TV, the service was titled “Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem”. Pilgrims believe that the city is to soon become the stage for the second coming of Jesus. But the city must remain under Israeli sovereignty.
“We are here to pray and lift our voices for intercession on behalf of Jerusalem,” declared the boisterous Rev Robert Stearns, head of the New York based Eagles’s Wings ministries. “The nations may have their thoughts, but God almighty’s words never fail.”
But then prophecy began to give way to profitability. Rev Stearns launched into what amounted to an advertisement for El Al, stressing that the airline ingathered Jewish exiles and was bringing pilgrims to Jerusalem. An El Al representative said how happy the company was to help pilgrims see the land where Jesus had lived.
The 5,000 pilgrims who arrived for the feast were expected to inject some $15 million into the Israeli economy as the competition for tourist dollars hots up during the credit crunch.
“It’s expensive but in the world there are only a few things important and this is one of them,” said Finnish pilgrim Evelyn Hynynen.