VISITING DELEGATIONS join in the Jerusalem March yesterday as part of the capital’s Succot festivities.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon in the annual Jerusalem March, which takes place every year during the festival of Succot.
Marching bands, stilt-walkers in circus outfits, costumed dancers, thousands of foreign visitors and a multitude of people who had made their way to the capital for the event all wound their way through the city’s central thoroughfares as part of its traditional Succot celebrations.
The Jerusalem Municipality estimated that some 60,000 people would take part in the festivities, which included marches along three different routes through the city, as well as organized activities in Sacher Park downtown.
Among those in the procession were soldiers from the IDF Paratroopers Brigade who fought in Gaza during the recent conflict, as well as firefighters, police, Border Police personnel, and numerous other groups and associations.
Prominent among the marchers were the approximately 5,000 Christian visitors from 80 countries around the world who were in Israel for a five-day conference organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a pro-Israel Evangelical Christian group.
The Christian visitors marched in their national groupings, many in distinctive national costumes.
A veritable sea of Brazilians, some 950 of them, constituted a bright and raucous section of the parade and marched through the streets calling out, “Hag sameah” – Hebrew for “happy holidays” – to the crowds who gathered to watch the procession.
Ricardo Alencar Malheiros, from the city of Manaus in northern Brazil, was one of the participants in the march and said this was his second visit to Israel.
“We have had a wonderful time. It is a very spiritual and emotional experience coming to this country and has changed my life,” he said.
“You have to protect this country, because it is the beginning of everything – it is the birthplace of Christianity, and it is the best place to be in the whole world,” he added.
Safed resident Haim Biton, another participant in the parade, marched with a group of hundreds of IDF veterans.
“Coming up to Jerusalem is the order of the day during Succot,” said Biton, who fought in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. “It’s a pilgrimage, and it’s important to be together with the Jewish people in the Holy City on this holiday.”
Another notable procession of foreign guests was a delegation from the Pacific island nation of Fiji. Joining the group of 33 pilgrims were 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers, not in uniform, who were recently hostages of Syrian Islamist group the Nusra Front but were released in September and redeployed to the Israeli side of the Syrian border, on the Golan Heights. Among the Fijian pilgrims were wives and relatives of the soldiers, who were reunited with them on Tuesday.
Marie Umidi headed a delegation from Virginia that had taken part in the ICEJ conference as well.
“We’re here to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. As Christians, we believe there is a biblical mandate to come and represent the nations of the world who stand for Israel and believe in the covenant promises that Israel needs to have an everlasting home and never give it up again,” said Umidi.
“We support that strongly as Christians, and as Americans we urge our leaders to support Israel at every chance and to help Israel establish a permanent homeland where they will never have to leave again.”
Major roads in the center of the capital were closed off to make way for the procession, and large numbers of security personnel were present to ensure the safety of the participants.