More than 4,000 Christian Evangelicals from around the world are heading to Jerusalem this weekend for the annual Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations.
The 27th annual event, which is sponsored by the pro-Israel International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, is expected to pump $15 million into the economy, in what has been billed as the largest tourism event of the year.
The highlight of the weeklong events, beginning Saturday in Ein Gedi, is Tuesday's colorful parade through downtown Jerusalem, which will also be attended by 2,500 Israeli participants.
The event continued to take place even during the peak of the recent wave of Palestinian violence over the last six years.
"Since 1980, God has used this ministry to revive the ancient biblical tradition of the nations coming up to Jerusalem to keep this feast of joy," said Reverend Malcolm Hedding, the International Christian Embassy's executive director. "Our thousands of Christian pilgrims bring tremendous enthusiasm to this city during Succot and we look forward to hosting them again this year."
The delegates will be greeted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday evening by video and will be addressed by Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog at the city's International Convention Center.
Despite the drop in violence in Israel, the number of Christian pilgrims participating is this year's event is down by about 1,500 from last year's Jerusalem celebrations, a reduction organizers attribute to worldwide concerns over travel, and the recent war in Lebanon.
In August, the US State Department issued a travel warning for Jerusalem due to terror alerts, urging American citizens to avoid crowded public places in the city, such as restaurants and cafes, shopping and market areas and malls, pedestrian zones, and all public transportation.
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