US Jews cancel, but Christian pilgrims coming as planned

By Haim Shapiro

JERUSALEM (October 12) - Although the current tense situation has already caused a significant number of the United Jewish Community missions due to come this month to cancel, it has hardly affected the plans of Christian groups due to arrive this week for the International Christian Embassy's Feast of Tabernacles celebration.

According to Nehemia Dagan, executive director of the United Jewish Communities overseas programs and missions, four of the 20 groups due to arrive from Monday have already cancelled and the remaining groups are also wary as the deadline for deciding whether to cancel drew closer.

"The situation is very bad," Dagan said.

The UJC official said that he had stressed that the situation in the Middle East was very volatile and could change by next week, but that UJC leaders in the US asked him what he would say if the groups were to come now.

"I tell them that if they came now it would not be a usual mission," he said.

Dagan added that many of those who signed up for the missions wanted to come, but they included many for whom this would be a first visit to Israel. If they did come and there was still tension, the organizers would have to warn them not to go to many of the sites, he added.

Dagan, who said that the UJC sent 150 groups a year, added that all those who could delay their visit were doing so.

In another development, Yoram Gordon, general manager of the Sheraton Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem, a favorite destination for Orthodox Jews from abroad who regularly come to Israel for religious holidays, reported yesterday that about 25 percent of those who had reserved places for Succot had cancelled.

However, Johann Luykhoff, director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, said yesterday that of the over 100 groups expected for the groups Feast of Tabernacles celebration, only two had cancelled, a gospel choir from the US and a group from Sri Lanka.

Luykhoff, who sent letters of reassurance to all the tour leaders, added that where there were problems, it was not because the participants wanted to cancel, but because their governments and travel and tour companies had pressured them not to come. He said that although about 4,500 had reserved places so far, he expected the number of participants to be between 5,500 and 6,000 by the time the event ended. © Jeruslaem Post 2000

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