Christian friends of Israel take part in the Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: COURTESY IFCJ)
Emanuelle, a tall blonde, was wearing the blue and white of the Israeli flag and an elaborate headdress with white feathers rising high above her head. Her white top and blue grass-like skirt were decorated with feathers and one large golden seashell hanging on a white beaded chain around her neck. Emmanuelle spoke English with a soft French accent as she told me that she is from Tahiti and that Tahiti is part of the French Polynesian islands. I met her at Sacher Park in Jerusalem where she was standing together with a group, who were singing and waving flags.
The contrast between Emanuelle's blondeness and the black skin of most of her friends was striking. Are the others from Tahiti too? I asked her. She smiled and explained that they were her neighbors from New Caledonia "only a 5 hour plane ride away from Tahiti." I admitted my ignorance - I had never heard of New Caledonia. Later that evening, I looked up New Caledonia online.
According to Wikipedia, New Caledonia is a "special collectivity of France in the Southwest Pacific Ocean…part of the Melanesia sub-region". I then looked up Tahiti, which I knew as an exotic tourist destination, and I realized that despite the 5 hour plane ride, they really are neighbors. That is what it is like when you live on an island 7,885 kilometers from Australia. Some of your neighbors are only 4,715 kilometers away. (By the way, the distance from Tahiti to Israel is 18,453 kilometers! Emanuelle had flown close to 23 hours to get to Israel.)
Emanuelle was one of the thousands of Christians who descended upon Jerusalem earlier this month during Sukkot, also known as "The Feast of the Tabernacles". On Tuesday October 10th, the day of the Jerusalem March, there was a lively crowd of people in Sacher Park in a pre-parade event. The Fellowship's Jerusalem headquarters (The Keren Leyedidut) set up a booth decorated with blue and green IFCJ balloons, where we handed out cards on which visitors could write blessings for the IDF soldiers and add their names and email addresses to receive more information about the Fellowship.
Not far from our booth there was a large stage where singers and dancers were performing. Native Brazilian dancers, followed by talented Israeli youth groups, took the stage and entertained the people milling about the park. In addition to Christians representing countries from every part of the globe, there were numerous Israeli families with young children in the park, which also had a large playground and a Gymboree. There were also a variety of Israeli groups representing companies and organizations who were marching in the Jerusalem March.
The Christians came to Jerusalem from countries as diverse as Korea, China, Peru, Brazil, Ireland, Norway, Samoa, Papua-New Guinea, South Africa, the United States, and quite a few others. Many of the marchers were dressed in beautiful native costumes and some were wearing creative interpretations of the Israeli flag or T-shirts displaying messages expressing their love of Israel. They passed out their national flags to passersby and Israeli children were running around collecting flags throughout the park. At about 3:00 PM the groups began to organize themselves and a short while later began their march through the streets of Jerusalem, waving flags and singing with great enthusiasm and energy. The Jerusalem March of 2017 had begun.
As I left the park, I stood for a while to watch the marchers and all I could think was how blessed Israel is to have so many friends in the world. It was truly inspiring to see such a variety of people who traveled so far to be in Jerusalem and to express their love for Israel. I have no doubt that each and every one of these wonderful friends will go home and continue their amazing work as good-will ambassadors for the State of Israel.
This article was written in cooperation with the IFCJ.