Hogs in the Holy Land

Evangelical Christian Harley-Davidson bikers visit the Western Wall.

Hundreds of thousands of sometimes eccentric or unusual tourists are drawn to the Holy Land every year. Israelis have grown accustomed to avoiding traffic on days of the Feast of Tabernacles and averting their eyes when devotees self-flagellate with nails on the annual Easter Parade.

But only very rarely does an Israeli bride on her wedding day encounter a herd of real hogs by the Western Wall — Hogs, in this instance, of the metallic rather than mammalian variety.

More than a hundred Harley-Davidson motorbikes made their way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday in a first-ever “Run for the Wall.”

A group of 71 American evangelical Christians, made up of pastors and military veterans who are all members of Mission:M25, a Texas-based religious group with military affinities, was accompanied by dozens of Israeli Harley Davidson bikers and escorted by Israel Police motorbikes on their approach to Jerusalem, part of a nine-day pilgrimage which will take them from Eilat, on the Red Sea, to the northernmost points of the Galilee.

"This visit to Israel is an overwhelming experience. Jerusalem means so much to us as Evangelical Christians and to arrive in the city on our favorite mode of transportation — it just doesn't get any better than that," said Pastor Gary Burd, the group’s leader.

The husky, grizzled Mission:M25ers surprised Israelis at the Western Wall, where motorbikes are more rarely seen than camels, and amused soldiers who were asked to pose for pictures alongside the colorful visitors. Harley-Davidsons are barely known in Israel: only 800 are registered in the country. One bride in all her finery couldn’t stop giggling. The Hogs said the traditional Jewish prayers of hamotzi over crackers and Kiddush over grape juice. Following the prayers, the group distributed olive green bandannas to bystanding soldiers.

The tour was organized as part of a push on the part of Israel’s Tourism Ministry to have every American evangelical Christian visit Israel “at least once in their lives."