Evangelical Christians 311.
(photo credit: Steve Linde)
A group of 1,400 Evangelical Christian from South Africa gathered in Israel this week for three evenings of worship and devotion in Jerusalem’s Old City and a week of touring the country. The Christian pilgrims, who arrived in 34 groups on a series of flights earlier this week, plan to express their love and support for the State of Israel during their countrywide visit.
The delegation will participate in Gospel concerts at the walls of the Old City that feature leading Gospel singers from South Africa, accompanied by the Tourism Ministry choir and an evening of praise and worship in the desert near Ein Gedi.
Lindie Gouws, the leader of the online, multimedia ministry and a
popular preacher in South Africa said that the participants represented
an increasing number of South African Christians who believe that it is
their duty to be “Watchmen over Jerusalem.” She said that there is a
growing movement of people in the country and around the world who share
the belief that the conflict in Israel is not about politics or money,
but a spiritual battle between light and darkness, and that they were in
Israel to bless it in words, deeds and prayers.
“We have come to bring a blessing to Israel. We have come as speakers, as ministers of the Gospel, as singers of the gospel.
We have come to bring the praise of Israel to our God. We have also come
to intercede for our nation. Should our nation not align with Israel,
we understand that we have a responsibility to do so. We are not putting
the responsibility on to our government.
We are saying that we will take up the call and there are three things
we will do: we will pray, we will understand and we will speak,” said
Gouws. “We will no longer be silent. We will speak with great strength
and call on all the people to be united.”
During their stay in Israel the groups will tour all across the country.
The tours, all organized by South African tour operator Stargate
International, last between eight to 12 days, and reach all the major
religious sites from the Old and New Testaments.
Rafi Ben-Hur, senior deputy director of the Tourism Ministry said he
first met Gouws two years ago while she was here doing research and
making a film for her ministry. He said that that immediately after they
met he began trying to convince her to organize a gathering in
Jerusalem and the idea for a Gospel festival began taking shape.
“The Tourism Ministry is eager to promote ties with the Christian
community and especially the evangelicals. Tourism Minister Stas
Meseznikov places a big emphasis on maintaining good contacts with them.
They are our only friends and provide us with an ear and mouth to the
world,” said Ben-Hur. “By welcoming them here warmly, we are both
promoting tourism and drafting ambassadors. If they visit us and receive
the right treatment, they go back charged like dynamite.
“From a tourism perspective they are extremely loyal customers who visit
once and come back again and again. From an advocacy perspective, they
see eye to eye with us on important issues,” said Ben- Hur. “It is the
only way we can fight our mistaken image around the world.
“Israel’s uniqueness doesn’t come from its beaches, we can’t compete
with Tenerife over our coastline. Our major ‘selling point’ is the fact
that we are the Holy Land and that is something we share with them,” he
said. “They have their beliefs and we have ours, but the bottom line is
that it is a good deal for Israel.”
Ben-Hur said that Christians make up roughly half of the incoming
tourists and that they are a growth engine for the Israeli economy.
“It is often mistakenly said that the pilgrims are a relatively poor
sort of tourists, but that’s wrong,” he continued. “They stay in nice
hotels. They travel all over the country. They purchase Israeli goods.
Look around. We are not in a hostel here, are we?” The first major event
of the festival will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Davidson
Center in the presence of Tourism Ministry director-general Noaz Bar-Nir
and delegation participants.
The concert will feature leading Gospel singers from South Africa,
accompanied by a band and the Tourism Ministry choir, as well as guest
of honor, Angus Buchan, founder of the Shalom Ministries and one of
South Africa’s best-known preachers.
The second event will take place on Thursday at the Hulda Steps, when
Gouws will lead the faithful in prayer for peace and unity in Israel.
The prayer gathering will include Gospel singing and the blowing of the
In related news, Sunday was the Annual Global Day of Prayer for the
Peace of Jerusalem, marked by millions of Evangelical Christians
worldwide. Both events were aired live on God TV, a Christian broadcast
network reaching viewers all across the world.