By early Sunday afternoon, believers in Jesus and in T.B. Joshua, the Nigerian preacher and exorcist, were already streaming toward Mount Precipice, just outside Nazareth. They were of all ages, races and nationalities.
En route to the mount, an Italian painter named Lady Gioconda showed off a huge oil painting of Joshua that she had made as a gift for him. She had never before attended one of his events, nor had she ever been in Nazareth before. But she believes Joshua will bring her the fame she seeks.
“He’s a super, super, super prophet,” she said, adding that she needs him in her work.
The crowd included Israelis, some of whom, like some visitors from other countries, were flying their country’s flag. A few even brought shofars.
A regular member of the church that Joshua founded, the Synagogue, Church of all Nations, said she came from Nigeria because she needed to strengthen her connection with Jesus. She had the feeling that this will be special, she said.
People from Haiti, Tanzania and the Czech Republic were eating watermelon together; all professed excitement. One, a priest from Tanzania, expressed the hope that they all feel Jesus there.
Many people were shading themselves from the sun with umbrellas bearing the name of the Gold Line appliance company. The umbrellas cost 20 shekels ($5.50). The watermelon was expensive at 50 shekels, but a glass of lemonade sold for just eight shekels and visor caps went for 15 to 20 shekels.
A Czech woman who is studying agriculture and economics said this was her first time in Israel, and she was excited to be at Mount Precipice. A Czech engineer said this visit would will accomplish two things at the same time – meeting Joshua and visiting the holy site.
Kebela Ele of Botswana said her husband had left her for another woman and wants a divorce, which she does not wish to consent to. She brought the divorce papers to Israel to pray for divine intervention.
A German woman recounted seeing Joshua in England earlier this month, but came to Israel to see him again. She loves him, she said. Asked what she was praying for, she said she would like to marry someone wonderful.
Ruth Gershonkopf of Ashkelon said she came “to get a new spirit from God.” She has a 10-year-old daughter who was in an accident at the age of 6, she explained with tears in her eyes, and she herself has cancer. She is hoping Joshua can help her daughter and keep her cancer from recurring.
One Tanzanian man wrapped himself in a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. He isn’t Jewish, but he loves Judaism, he explained, remarking that Israel is a wonderful country.
After the audience had enjoyed a gospel choir and songs in Arabic, in addition to a rousing rendition of the Hebrew song “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” (“We will yet have peace”), a Russian-speaking couple ascended to the stage with a baby. Through a translator, they told the audience that the woman had suffered six miscarriages; another child had died at birth. The child they were holding on stage was born after a meeting with Joshua, and the woman is also pregnant again.
Do you want a miracle too? the emcee asked. Yes! the audience roared back.
Another man got on stage and related how Joshua had cured his stomach ailment. Thank God! God be praised! the audience shouted, clapping thunderously.
A woman said she had been an alcoholic who hated her daughter and beat her. But now, she loves both the girl and her husband. The husband, an Israeli, said he had gone to Nigeria and come back a new man.
Based on the published schedule, Joshua should have already made his appearance. Instead, the choir got the audience dancing and waving their hands in the air with songs about love for Jesus. Most of the audience sang along.
One of the singers exhorted the audience to raise their arms, love God and pour out their hearts so he could touch them. Another woman translated her English exhortations into Hebrew for the locals.
People who came to be healed
At the side of the stage, a screen featured live scenes of audience members falling to their knees, vomiting blood or even collapsing on the ground. A woman from Joshua’s television station who accompanied reporters explained that these were sick people who had come to be healed. The photographers didn’t spare the audience graphic close-ups. Israeli Magen David Adom emergency medics stationed in the crowd didn’t seem to know quite what to do.
Joshua finally ascended the stage almost two hours late. After telling the audience that Jesus and his mother, Mary, had come from the area, he recited verses from the New Testament. The thousands of people in the crowd were utterly silent. The only sound aside from Joshua’s voice was the faint call of the muezzins from Nazareth’s mosques.
He then left the stage to circulate among the crowd. He approached one man who began trembling uncontrollably. He physically touched people, and gave one woman a light push. She fell to the ground.
The television crew gave the microphone to a woman with a neck brace. Joshua touched her. She sounded as if she was choking for a few seconds, but then removed the brace, raised her arms and expressed thanks to Jesus.
Next up was a disabled girl who stood up and began walking after Joshua touched her. She wept with excitement. The audience cheered.
And so it went, one after another, until sunset. Some of the people he touched screamed in ecstasy. Others went wild. The captions on the screen at the side of the stage explained that evil was leaving them. The audience watched in silence.
An Israeli security guard expressed the desire that Joshua touch him, too. But a friend warned: “He cures sick people. You’re healthy. If he touches you, who knows what would happen.”
A woman from Vienna left the event in rapture, proclaiming that Joshua had cured her. But when she flagged down a taxi and the driver quoted her a price of 70 shekels for the short trip to her Nazareth hotel, the rapture soon gave way to haggling.
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