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Comforting Israel at the Feast

Forty Years of ICEJ Ministry Highlights - Part I

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4 Sep 2020
Comforting Israel at the Feast

This month, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is marking the 40th anniversary since our ministry was founded at the first public Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in September 1980. The ICEJ was established with a clear calling from Scripture to be a ministry of comfort and blessing to the restored nation of Israel, based on the prophetic mandate of Isaiah 40:1-2.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

As we look back over the past four decades, one of the remarkable ways God has used the Christian Embassy to comfort the Jewish people is through the Feast itself. Each year, thousands of Christian pilgrims have faithfully come up to Jerusalem to express their love and solidarity for the Jewish state and people. And some years have especially stood out for the way they have brought comfort to Israel in troubled times. As we recall a few of these very special moments at the Feast, we hope it will stir you to make sure to join us for this year’s online Global Feast 2020. [Learn more at: feast.icej.org]

Feast 1980 – Christian Embassy Founded in Solidarity with Israel
The ICEJ actually was birthed out of the first Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem in September 1980. As the Feast organizing committee was preparing for this gathering that summer, a diplomatic storm erupted over the Israeli government’s declaration that reunited Jerusalem was the eternal capital of the Jewish state. By the time Christians showed up in Jerusalem for the Feast, the last 13 national embassies had left the city for Tel Aviv under the threat of an Arab oil embargo. In response, the Feast organizers quickly decided to establish a permanent expression of Christian support for Israel and its claim to Jerusalem. By the third day of that week-long biblical festival, a building was located to serve as the new “International Christian Embassy Jerusalem”. The city’s venerable mayor Teddy Kollek presided over the dedication ceremony, which was attended by 1,000 Christians from 32 nations. He described it as one of the most moving experiences in his entire life. And Israel’s chief rabbi Shlomo Goren blessed the Christian pilgrims with the traditional Feast greeting from Psalms 118:26 – “Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.”

Feast 1982 – Feast Grows to 5,000 Despite Lebanon War
Ahead of the third Feast in 1982, the event was moved to the large Jerusalem Convention Center, but ICEJ leaders did not expect a big crowd once the First Lebanon War broke out that summer. However, some 5,000 Christian pilgrims from nearly 100 nations showed up, many at the last minute, which gave a huge boost to the Israeli public – especially in the Jerusalem March. Israelis had held the traditional March through the streets of Jerusalem during Sukkot since the early 1970s, but by this time it was losing steam. In fact, the IDF said they had no budget for bringing troops to the city to join the March as usual, and the Jerusalem police preferred to be with their families during the holidays rather than on overtime duty guarding the March. So city officials were ready to cancel the Jerusalem March. Yet once our Christian delegations started joining the March, it became an attraction again. And in 1982, with the nation anxious about the fighting in Lebanon and facing heavy criticism abroad, thousands of friendly Christians marching through the streets of Jerusalem at Sukkot was an incredibly uplifting sight. Ever since, the Jerusalem March has become a very popular Feast event for Christian pilgrims and Israelis alike.

Feast 1991 – Record Crowd Despite Intifada
The first Palestinian intifada erupted in late 1987 and by 1991 it had taken a toll on Israeli tourism. In addition, that was the year of the First Gulf War, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel, and everyone had to wear gas masks. Yet the 1991 Feast of Tabernacles drew a record crowd of nearly 8,000 participants. The Feast had become Israel’s largest annual tourist event – even in times of terror and rocket threats.

Feast 1996 – PM Netanyahu Delivers Key Message at ICEJ Feast
Just ahead of the 1996 Feast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized the opening of the Western Wall tunnel through a doorway onto the Via Dolorosa. Palestinian leaders used it as a pretext to incite violent protests, which left some 100 Palestinians and 25 Israeli soldiers dead. Once again, thousands of Christians showed up in Jerusalem for the Feast, despite the outbreak of hostilities. Under mounting international pressure to close the Western Wall tunnel, Netanyahu chose his appearance at that year’s Feast of Tabernacles to announce that the Hasmonean-era tunnel would remain open for tours, and the riots quickly subsided.

Feast 2000 – Packed Gathering Despite Palestinian Uprising
In late September 2000, Palestinian leaders launched an armed uprising against Israel following the collapse of the Oslo peace talks. Despite the raging violence in the Land, thousands of courageous Christians showed up at our Feast of Tabernacles just a few weeks later to express solidarity with Israel. The Embassy presented Mayor Ehud Olmert with a petition signed by more than 120,000 Christians from over 100 nations in support of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli Opposition leader Ariel Sharon, who many were blaming for the outbreak of the “second intifada”, ended two weeks of media silence on the issue by coming to address the Feast gathering and to thank Christians for their support. “We regard you to be our best friends that we have around the world”, said Sharon.

Feast 2002 – Brave Pilgrims Encourage Israelis
The 2002 Feast was held during the peak of the armed Palestinian uprising, which had chased away nearly all foreign tourism to Israel. However, more than 2500 Christians showed up for the Feast that year. When a suicide bomber slipped into Jerusalem to target our Feast pilgrims in the Jerusalem March, all the major world media were on hand expecting a significant terror incident. But our national delegations bravely marched anyway, and the demonstration of support and courage not only touched Israelis, but also gained respect from the global press. “Through the streets of Jerusalem, a powerful movement, marching for the Jewish state”, a CNN reporter said in his coverage of the Feast broadcast worldwide.

Feast 2014 – Pais Arena Filled Despite Gaza Rocket War
The Feast of 2014 was the first international gathering in the spacious new Jerusalem Pais Arena. The move to the just-completed facility required faith as it was not sure if the Arena would be finished in time. In addition, there was some uncertainty just how many Christians would come to the Feast, since there was a prolonged rocket war with Hamas in Gaza that summer which saw Jerusalem also targeted for the first time. But the crowds of Christians came once more from all over the world to express their love and concern for Israel. That year, the Embassy welcomed on stage Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder, 25 pro-Israel parliamentarians from 17 nations, and 300 IDF troops who had just fought in the Gaza conflict.

These are just some of the instances when the ICEJ’s Feast celebration proved to be a timely comfort and encouragement to Israelis, even when Jewish people were afraid to visit the country. It has proven over and over again that we are not just fair weather friends, but genuine and caring supporters of the Jewish state and people.

No doubt, if Israel would allow foreign guests into the country right now, thousands would come despite the Coronavirus outbreak. But for the first time, we will all have to celebrate the first from our own countries. Yet you can “appear in Zion” this Sukkot by joining us for the online Global Feast 2020. You will be blessed by the powerful preaching and anointed worship experience, and you will enable us to bless and comfort Israel once more this Feast of Tabernacles.

Learn more about this year’s Feast and register today at: feast.icej.org
 

 

  

 

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