The Chief Rabbinate has abruptly called on Jews to shun a major Christian tourism event, baffling and upsetting evangelical groups that traditionally have been big supporters of Israel,More than 6,000 Christians from more than 90 nations are expected to arrive in Jerusalem this week to take part in the 28th annual Christian celebration of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, according to the event's organizers, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.Thousands of Christians take part in the celebration annually, as do Israeli lawmakers, government representatives and ordinary Israelis. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi, personally welcomed participants one year.
But this year the Chief Rabbinate urged Jews to stay away from the event, saying some of the groups want to convert them to Christianity. Proselytizing is illegal in Israel."According to information that has reached the Chief Rabbinate, there are participants in this conference who convert Jews to Christianity and perform missionary activity throughout the year," said Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, the chief rabbi of Rehovot, who took part in committee discussions of the matter. "This is against the law, so the Chief Rabbinate is calling upon Jews not to take part in the conference."The group's organizers denied breaking the law."It is disappointing to learn that some rabbinic authorities are trying to discourage the Jewish public from participating in this traditional march," said the Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the ICEJ's executive director. "The ICEJ has never conducted any missionary programs in Israel and we clearly instruct our Feast pilgrims against such activity during their stay here."National Religious Party MK Benny Elon, who heads the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus, questioned why the rabbinate's ruling was handed down now, after the event has taken place for 27 years with the understanding on both sides that missionary activity was off limits.
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