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Christians march in Jerusalem in support of Israel

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012

"It breaks my heart to see the president of the United States reserve more criticism for Israel for building homes in their capital city than he does for (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad for building nuclear weapons with which to threaten the peace and security of the entire free world," Franks said.

The relationship between evangelical Christians and Israel isn't without its wrinkles.

Many Israelis are troubled by what they suspect is the source of the unqualified support — a belief by some evangelical groups in an apocalyptic battle between good and evil in which Jesus returns, and Jews either accept Christianity or perish.

A ultra-Orthodox Jewish former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, refused to accept funds from evangelical Christians for fear of their proselytizing. His successor, the current mayor, Nir Barkat, has revoked the policy, but some skepticism still persists.

Moderate Israelis are also uneasy with evangelical backing, as the Christians back the hard-line nationalist Israeli camp that opposes giving up control of any of the West Bank, though the majority of Israelis favor creation of a Palestinian state there, and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a veteran hawk, has grudgingly accepted that.

Israel's relations with Christians have also been strained by a series of recent vandalism attacks, including this week, in which anti-Christian graffiti was spray-painted on churches and monasteries.

Israel has about 155,000 Christian citizens, less than 2 percent of its 7.9 million population, but the repeated defacing of their sacred sites has shocked the country and drawn official condemnation. Extremist Jewish settlers, angry over what they consider pro-Palestinian policies by the Israeli government, are suspected.

Speaking to reporters, Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein dismissed the vandalism as the work of "a few crazies" and thanked participants for supporting Israel. He said the conference "allays the feeling in Israel that the world is against us."

Leia Vaks, a 28-year old Israeli who handed out snacks at the colorful parade, said she was pleased by the turnout.

"This shows the world that Israel isn't alone," she said, smiling.