Jerusalem's Cops Play Apocalypse Busters

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That has Israel's police pretty jumpy around evangelical Christians. "Off the record, the officers involved will tell you they're very, very worried," says Beyer. "Despite having rounded up a number of people this year, it's hard for them to know who's out there and what they're planning. They're working closely with the U.S. authorities to identify potential troublemakers."

Last year, Israel deported 14 member of a Denver-based sect called Concerned Christians, on suspicion that they planned acts of violence and mass suicide in Jerusalem, and earlier in October the authorities denied entry to a group of 26 Christians from Ireland and Romania whom they accused of being members of the cult — an act that drew diplomatic protests from Ireland.

Of course, by deporting Christian groups whose visas have expired — and denying entry to others — on the basis that they present a security risk, Israel runs the risk of deterring many of the millions of Christian tourists who'd been expected in the Holy Land for the millennium. The arrests run the risk of creating a climate of fear among potential visitors, and even of making Christian groups feel unwelcome. "The government is clearly worried about sending the wrong message," says Beyer. "Interior Minister Natan Sharansky is taking great pains to emphasize that Israel still welcomes tourists and pilgrims."

The Israeli government and economy, sure. But ask any Jerusalem cop off the record and he'll tell you his job would be a lot easier if everyone just stayed away.

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