Every year at the annual Sukkot parade, thousands of tourists and Israelis stroll down Jerusalem's streets smiling and waving flags from around the world.
This year, however, an official committee appointed by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has banned Jews from participating in the parade, fearing missionary influences, Ynet has learned.
Mayor Lupolianski honored in previous parade (Photo: Haim Zach)
The committee presented its conclusions to members of the rabbinical council, which includes chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger. The two chief rabbis approved the edict, and it is expected to become official soon.
The annual Sukkot parade is organized by the Jerusalem municipality and other official bodies. In addition, the committee barred participation in various events planned by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem at the Jerusalem International Convention Center in celebration of the holiday.
The rabbinate claims to have good reason to believe that at the two events – the parade and the convention – Christian missionaries plan to solicit Jewish participants to convert to Christianity under the guise of amicability toward Israel and the Jewish nation.
Missionaries? Tourists parade through Jerusalem (Photo: Haim Zach)
In its official statement the Chief Rabbinical Council of Israel's Committee for the Prevention of the Spread of Missionaries welcomed the foreign tourists to the Holy Land ahead of the holidays. But later in the statement they warned that "it is forbidden, according to law, for any Jew in the country or the world to participate in the events at the Convention Center or the parades, which aim to convert us from our religion."
In response, the Christian Embassy told Ynet that they were never invited by the rabbinical council to present their claims. They noted that some 6,000 people were expected to attend the Feast of the Tabernacle events this year (the 28th year of its existence), making this one of the biggest tourist events in Israel year round.
Officials at the Christian Embassy said that over the years at the event they have honored prime ministers including Menahem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir. Even Orthodox Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and the late former chief rabbi Rabbi Shlomo Goren attended the festivities in years past.
Feast of Tabernacles pilgrimage (Photo: Haim Zach)
"We are not a missionary organization and the Christian tourists that arrive to participate in the event believe in the Bible, and see it as the Old Testament where Sukkot is mentioned as one of the three pilgrimages. Also, in King Solomon's writings he invites all the people of the world to come to Jerusalem, and every year we are honored to have a warm welcome from the Israelis," embassy official David Parsons told Ynet.
The Jerusalem municipality also responded to the rabbinate's move, saying in a statement that "participation (in the parade) is planned in advance and approved by the city, whose inspectors wouldn't allow a missionary group or any other political group to attend the parade."