Chief Rabbinate Bans Jews from ICEJ Gathering

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JERUSALEM, Israel - This year marks the 28th consecutive Feast of Tabernacles [Hebrew, Sukkot] celebration sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).

The Embassy staff is preparing to welcome upwards of 6,000 Christians coming to Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and participate in the annual parade through the streets of Jerusalem, one of the highlights of the week.

But if Israel's Chief Rabbinate has its way, Jews will be banned from participating in the parade or attending any of the ICEJ events at the Conference Center.

An anti-missionary subcommittee, appointed by Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, to combat missionary activity in the land, has recommended forbidding Jews from participating in the ICEJ's celebration.

In a document presented to the chief rabbis, the committee concluded that under the guise of friendship to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, Christian pilgrims from the nations have one goal in mind: to convert Jews to Christianity.

ICEJ Media Director David Parsons spoke with CBN News about the ruling.

"The rabbinic council never gave us an opportunity to dialogue with them or present our position," Parsons said.

In past years, he said, many Israeli prime ministers, including Menahem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir, have extended a warm welcome to participants.

"We are not a missionary organization," said Parsons. "Every year, we've been honored by the Israeli people's warm welcome and we're expecting the same this year," he said.

The ICEJ's Feast of Tabernacles is the single biggest annual tourist event in the country. Even during the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising), when tourism bottomed out because of frequent suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Christians, albeit in smaller numbers, were faithful to come every fall.

This year's celebration promises to be one of the largest in the event's long history.

"We're way ahead of registration in recent years," said Parsons, "which leaves less room for Israelis at the Conference Center, so we especially want everyone to come out and participate in the parade," he said.

The Jerusalem Municipality also issued a statement regarding the proposed ban.

"Participation [in the parade] is planned in advance and approved by the city, whose inspectors would not allow a missionary group or any other political group to attend the parade," the statement read.

In past years, Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, has himself taken part of the Feast of Tabernacles parade.

YNet news service contributed to this article.

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