ad info
   asia pacific
   middle east

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

 video archive
 multimedia showcase
 more services

Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Get a free e-mail account

 message boards

CNN Websites
 En Español
 Em Português


Networks image
 more networks

 ad info


World - Middle East

Christian pilgrims seeking apocalypse alarm some Israelis

Some Christian pilgrimages are motivated by Biblical predictions about the end of the world  

September 28, 1999
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT)

In this story:

3 million tourists expected

'Peaceful intentions'


From staff and wire reports

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- While the approach of the year 2000 is drawing Christian pilgrims from across the world to visit Biblical holy lands in Israel and the West Bank, bringing much-anticipated tourism revenue to the region, it has also drawn visitors the Israeli hosts prefer would stay home -- those who hope to witness the end of the world.

Among the crowds of Christians traveling to the Middle East ahead of the new year, a minority of fundamentalist followers are bringing with them visions of a second coming of Jesus -- an event that, according to New Testament prophesy, signifies the apocalypse.

"We're waiting daily for the Messiah to return," says one Christian woman.

VideoJerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers reports on a march by Christian fundamentalists and Israeli reactions to their beliefs
Windows Media 28K 80K

"There will be an apocalypse somewhere in the Middle East. There will be an Armageddon," says another.

That kind of talk alarms some Israelis, who as Jews don't share a hope for the return of the Christian savior and are concerned that radical Christians might destroy religious sites holy to Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, setting off bloodshed in the disputed city.

When a group of Zionist Christians converged this week in Israel for an annual festival, some militant Jews greeted them with shouts of "Danger! Danger, Missionaries!" and "Jesus is dead!"

"The implicit message of the (Christian) apocalyptic scenario is that we're the target, that world war is going to happen here, according to the fundamentalist agenda," said Yossi Klein-Halevy, of the Jerusalem Report.

The umbrella group that sponsored this week's Christian gathering, the International Christian Embassy, urged Israelis to welcome millennium pilgrims, saying that while "the Christian Embassy shares with many others a firm belief in the 'coming of the Lord,' ... the vast majority of Christians do not take seriously anyone who may be seeing with certainty either 2000 or 2001 as the date for Christ's return."

3 million tourists expected

Israel's Tourism Ministry predicts more than 3 million tourists will visit Israel and the West Bank during 2000 and 2001 to mark the start of Christianity's third millennium.

Police have set up a special task force to deal with members of messianic sects they fear may try to use violence to realize their apocalyptic visions of the end of the world.

Earlier this year, Israeli authorities deported several members of a Christian doomsday cult based in Denver..

The approach of the year 2000 is drawing Christian pilgrims from across the world to Jerusalem  

'Peaceful intentions'

The Christian Embassy supported Israel's "right and duty to take all reasonable precautions and make informed assessments of any potential security risks on an individual basis."

However, the group said, "Israelis and others need to look past the dissemination of negative images and recognize these pilgrims are coming with peaceful intentions."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak broke with his predecessors and turned down an invitation to address the group, which was a fervent backer of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some see it as ironic that many Jews have shunned the Christian groups, since the visitors are among Israel's staunchest supporters. Some Christians view the existence of the state of Israel as a precursor to the 'second coming.'

Though the current government snubbed them, the group's leader says their political support may be sought again, especially as Palestinians demand a share of Jerusalem in final peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"The days might come when they will need the support of the Christian world on some of these issues," said International Christian Embassy Executive Director Johannes Luckhoff.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

Israeli crackdown on Islamic Movement draws Arab anger
September 27, 1999
Israel hands over more West Bank land to Palestinians
September 10, 1999

International Christian Embassy
The Official Israeli Tourism Site
Office of the Israeli Prime Minister
Palestinian National Authority
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.