JERUSALEM, Oct. 16 (RNS)--Garbed in Native American dresses of buckskin andbeads, Jodi Scott and Tara Randolph arrived in Jerusalem this week topray, drum and dance for peace.
Scott, of Atlanta, and Randolph of Ossian, Ind., were among the4,500 evangelical Christians who defied media reports of Middle Eastviolence and instability to attend the International Christian Embassy'sannual Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations here in the Holy Land.
Amid reports of a 30 percent overall drop in tourism to Israel, mostof the evangelical Christian delegations scheduled to arrive this weekfrom some 120 countries worldwide did indeed make it to Jerusalem, saidChristian embassy director Johann Luckhoff.
"Many Christians came because of the situation, not in spite of it,"Luckhoff said. "They felt this was the time to take a stand with Israeland to pray for the nation, and hope through prayers and goodwill tosomehow help alleviate the situation."
"Less than 10 percent canceled," he added. "And in many cases, thatwas because their tour operators simply called off the trip."
A delegation of Native American drummers and dancers, a steel bandfrom the Caribbean and puppeteers from Singapore were among thedelegations attending the nine-day event, which includes performances,seminars and a parade through downtown Jerusalem.
At Saturday evening's kickoff, Luckhoff presented Israeligovernment minister Rabbi Michael Melchior with a petition calling for aunited Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty as part of any finalIsraeli-Arab peace settlement.
Luckhoff said that the petition had been drafted by the ChristianEmbassy (which has no official standing) several months ago, while the peace process was still in fullswing, and has since been signed and endorsed by organizationsrepresenting some 15 million Christians worldwide, including Americanevangelicals Pat Boone and Pat Robertson. The Christian Embassy has maintained its staunchly pro-Israel linein the recent period of violence, defending Israel against charges thatpolice and soldiers have shot indiscriminately at Palestiniandemonstrators.
"Our observation is that Israel is showing much restraint and is notinitiating problems, but is defending herself when there are attacks,and this is not well enough reported in the media," Luckhoff said. But the participants attending the Feast--which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot-- reflected a wide rainbow ofviews. Some, like 64-year-old Betty Ward of Ocala, Fla., saw the recentinstability as a harbinger of end days scenarios.
"You may not want to hear this," said the gray-haired grandmother,garbed in a long purple smock and a gold tiara that vaguely suggested abiblical dress theme. "But things are going to get worse, before theyget better. It's the beginning of the end."
Others, like Scott and Randolph, are approaching the situation withgreater equanimity.
"As Native Americans we can empathize with both sides," Scott said,as she awaited the arrival of fellow drummers and dancers in a flashy"modern" native dress of feathers, shells and shimmering red sequins."We have been through our own holocaust and we also know what it is liketo give up land for peace. We love the Palestinians and the Israelis andwant to see the two brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, reconciled."