(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A wave of blue and white, accompanied by colorful flags from across the globe, swept through Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, as tens of thousands of Jews and Christians walked side by side in the annual Feast of Tabernacles Jerusalem March.
The run-up to the parade was marred by a Chief Rabbinate order banning Jews from the event, for fear of "missionary work," but that did not stop some 80,000 - 7,000 of them Christians - from enjoying the festivities.
However, Christian-Jewish tension surfaced when three American Christians were detained for questioning at the start of the event.
Police said one of the three attempted to disrupt the march by holding up a large wooden cross and yelling, "This is our march."
The three refused to cooperate with the police investigation.
"What law did I break?" Joseph Matthew Dolan from New York City asked angrily as he was whisked away by police. "This is my personal property."
The parade included groups of marchers from different segments of Israeli society, including El Al pilots, soldiers, medical personnel, postal workers and representatives of various regions of Israel.
Actors in costumes representing different periods in Israeli history sang songs about the united city, while the Police Band kept the rhythm for the marchers and spectators.
The march, which capped off a series of Succot events in the capital, attracted Jerusalemites who came to see the participating nations' colorful outfits, and evangelical Christians who could not stop declaring their love and support for the people in Zion, as they do every year.
"Many nations and countries oppose Israel. We wanted to tell Israel and its people that we stand next to them and that they will never be alone," Heyn Middelhoven, 30, from the Netherlands, who was marching with a group from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post.
Some 1,500 Brazilian pilgrims also participated in the event.
Many passersby got caught up in the excitement of the music and dancing, the variety of flags and the festive atmosphere - whether or not they knew what it was all about.
"I don't know what this parade is for, but it's beautiful," said Haim, a 10-year-old Jerusalemite who came to the parade with his family.
"It's for Jerusalem and Israel, and we love the Israeli [spirit] and its long-lasting symbols," explained a group of local teenagers as they asked a crew of El Al pilots participating in the event if they could pose with them for a photograph.
"We wanted to join this lovely celebration of the Jewish people. It is an exciting thing for us to be a part of this joy," said Yan Hodne from Norway. "We have marches like this back home, but being here - it's something else."
His friend Torbdofn Tonnessen, also from Norway, declared, "It's a dream come true."
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