Thousands of Evangelical Christian pilgrims from dozens of countries gathered at the Ein Gedi oasis near the Dead Sea on Friday night for the opening of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Christian term for the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which in biblical times was marked by a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The celebration will continue with a series of events at the Jerusalem Arena on Saturday evening for the rest of the week-long holiday.
Also on Saturday, some of the pilgrims attended a mass baptism ceremony, in the waters of the Jordan River at Yardenit in northern Israel.
On Tuesday, the pilgrims will attend the Jerusalem March, an annual event during which many of the capital’s streets are closed to vehicular traffic.
Evangelical Christianity is one of the world’s fastest growing religious movements. Of the world’s estimated two billion Christians, some 700 million are evangelicals, according to the pro-Israel International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which organized the Jerusalem summit.
Evangelical movements are expanding most prominently in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Evangelicals say their affinity for Israel stems from Christianity’s Jewish roots and an anticipated Messianic age when all nations of the earth will flock to Jerusalem. Jews and Christians both believe in a future Messianic age, though Jews do not accept the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah.