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September 27, 2010September 27, 2010  3 comments  Events

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is one of the seven annual holidays instituted by God in the Tanakh, or Old Testament. As such, it is viewed as a "Jewish" holiday. So it must seem strange to Israelis and Jews everywhere to see thousands of Christians make the journey to Jerusalem every year in accordance with Deuteronomy 16:16-17 to celebrate Sukkot.


Indeed, so many Christians converge on Jerusalem every year for the Christian Feast of Tabernacles celebration that it is by far Israel's largest annual tourism event, injecting an estimated $15 million into the local economy in a matter of days.


So, while most Israelis aren't complaining that Christians desire to mark one of "their" holidays in such grand fashion, the question remains - why?


Travelujah asked a number of participants at the Feast of Tabernacles hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to answer that question.


"Zechariah says the nations will all come up to Jerusalem for Sukkot, so we are fulfilling that prophecy," said Judy Ball from North Carolina, referring to Zechariah 14:16.


The ICEJ website notes that "the Bible describes the Feast of Tabernacles as the third of the three annual feasts which the people of Israel are commanded to celebrate in Jerusalem."


As Christians, the ICEJ states that it "believes that celebrating the Feast each year honors the Lord in anticipation of the fulfillment of the words spoken by Zechariah when ‘the nations...shall come up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles' (Zech. 14:16)."


Ball said that she and her husband have been making that journey of anticipation for the past 14 years, and today lead the ICEJ intercession team at the Feast.


"We see it as a perfect opportunity to not only intercede for Israel, but also for the nations that are all represented," Ball told Travelujah.


Beyond that, Ball also sees the huge influx of Christians during the Feast as "an opportunity to help promote peace in the region and build bridges between Christians and non-Christians. God not only loves the Jews, but all the people of this region, so we are here to pray for them, too."


Herta and Irene from Austria, who are by comparison relative newcomers to the Feast, said their participation and decision to come up to Jerusalem with a group of 20 fellow Christians was a simple expression of faith.


"We want to bless Israel," they said, adding that "our roots are here, in Israel. We have the same God."


In truth, it should be little surprise for those who read and believe the Bible (be they Christians or Jews) that people from all nations come up to Jerusalem during Sukkot.


Sukkot is a harvest festival. It occurs just after the summer harvest has been gathered, and the first fruits of that harvest are to be brought up to Jerusalem as a sacrifice to God (Leviticus 23). Sukkot is also known as the Feast of Ingathering, which, like most things in the Bible, has a physical and a spiritual meaning.


In the physical, that passage refers to the harvest season, and to offering a thanksgiving sacrifice to God for His provision. In the spiritual, many Bible teachers believe this is speaking of an ingathering of the nations that will be drawn close to God by the Word He gave through Israel.


Sukkot also has tremendous messianic overtones, and is closely related to the closing of Jesus' earthly ministry and his anticipated return.


The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah, or the Great Supplication. During Hoshana Rabbah, Jews of faith will wave palm branches while calling out to God for salvation and for the coming of Messiah.


Psalm 118 is recited, and special emphasis is put on verse 26: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord..."


Jesus' early followers, being all Jewish themselves, made use of these messianic Sukkot traditions when welcoming him into Jerusalem:


"As they approached Jerusalem... A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hoshana to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hoshana in the highest!" (Matthew 21:1, 8-9)


As they had been for generations, the Jews of that time were anxiously awaiting their conquering King Messiah, and so greeted Jesus with those signs and symbols they had been taught during Sukkot. But Jesus had other plans, knowing that he must first conquer death and fulfill the spiritual aspects of redemption by allowing the shedding of his blood for the people's sins.


Jesus was coming to die, not to reign. But he did acknowledge that the Sukkot traditions were accurate when he told the people they would "not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,'" a clear reference to the Sukkot prayers.


And so it is that those Christians who have reconnected to their Hebraic biblical roots join the Jews in viewing Sukkot as the season in which Messiah will arrive and establish his kingdom from Jerusalem.


Is it any wonder that so many Christians would desire to be in Jerusalem at the time of Sukkot?


Ryan Jones writes for  Travelujah, a Christian social network focused on fostering a deeper connection with faith through Holy Land tours. You can plan, learn and share your holy land experience on Travelujah using our in-depth locational content, user and expert blogs that can take you off the beaten track, and individual or group tour booking services.

September 27, 2010September 27, 2010  4 comments  Events

"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." Zechariah 14:16


Entering Jerusalem's International Convention Center during the annual biblical festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), it is clear one is among the nations, people from every corner of the earth come up to the holy city for a single purpose: to take part in the fulfillment of that ancient prophecy.


Hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the Christian Feast of Tabernacles is a gala event. And with 2010 marking the 30th anniversary of the ICEJ (the ministry was actually born out of the inaugural Feast of Tabernacles celebration in 1980), this year's opening event, held  on September 23rd in Jerusalem, was even that much more spectacular.

 Opening Night Parade of the Nations

"We know that God is present here because he has promised to meet his people here in Zion during the Feast of Tabernacles," declared ICEJ Executive Director  Rev. Malcome Hedding.


ICEJ International Director Jürgen Bühler added that what the 5,000 participants who had filled the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to overflowing were doing "has been going on for 3000 years. For 3000 years the Jews have been obeying God's command to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot."


Opening night started in dramatic fashion with an impressive shofar blast and the sound of various international voices reading from Isaiah chapter 62:

 Sounding of the Shofar on Opening Night

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch... You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her a praise in the earth."


Following was a brief but powerful musical and dance performance accompanied by the images of past and present events that have formed the modern State of Israel - with a poignant reminder that God has vowed to one day make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth. In today's tense political atmosphere, where Jerusalem represents one of the thorniest issues standing in the way of peace, that may seem like a wishful thinking.

 Opening Night Dance at Feast of Tabernacle

But the ICEJ is standing firm on that divine promise.


"Given that the issue of Jerusalem has again come to the fore, this year's Feast is dedicated to reaffirming global Christian support for a United Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, a message that will be reinforced at several events during the festivities," said ICEJ Media Director David Parsons.


That message clearly touched Israelis, all the way up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in a pre-recorded video greeting, told the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles participants:


"Three decades ago when some countries decided to move their embassies out of Jerusalem, you decided to come to Jerusalem. At first you came by the dozens, then you came by the hundreds; now you come by the thousands.


"Year after year you come from over a hundred countries to march through the streets of Jerusalem; and in doing so, you remind the people of Israel that we are not alone. You remind us that there are people across the world who recognize that in returning to Zion, the Jewish people have returned home.


"So on behalf of my country, and on behalf of my people, I say thank you. Thank you for your moral clarity. Thank you for your solidarity. Thank you for supporting the one and only Jewish State. Thank you."


Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov addressed the gathering in person, adding to Netanyahu's greeting by noting that Jerusalem is also "the spiritual capital for people of faith all over the world."


"Welome to Israel, the land of God; welcome to Jerusalem, the city of King David, the eternal and undivided capital of Israel," said Misezhnikov. "Welcome home!"


The welcome messages were followed by what is in some ways the most dramatic element of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles - the Procession of the Nations.


During the procession, the flags of most of the 100 nations represented at the Feast were paraded across the stage. There was the expected representation from Christian-dominated Western countries. As has been the case for years already, the Brazilian contingent in the auditorium was huge, dwarfing even the American representation.


For first-timers at the Feast, there were also some surprises during the procession, as the flags of the Muslim nations of Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as just about every poor and impoverished African and southeast Asian country made their way across the stage.


The presence of these nations at the Feast made the event real, put it beyond being merely a colorful and dynamic display of solidarity. It is clear that for a great many Christians around the world, the life-changing experience of being in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in accordance with God's Word is an opportunity worth stretching their meager means or risking further social rejection to be a part of.


But in the end, it was the host nation, Israel, that won the most thunderous applause, as the Feast participants loudly and passionately reaffirmed their love of and commitment to the Jewish state.


The ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles is a production with tremendous impact that is easily on par musically and in terms of presentation with anything Broadway has to offer. Only this is not entertainment. It is a sincere and powerful expression of faith in God and His Word by the hundreds who put on the Feast and the thousands who attend  and participate in it.


Ryan Jones writes for  Travelujah, a Christian social network focused on fostering a deeper connection with faith through Holy Land tours. You can plan, learn and share your holy land experience on Travelujah using our in-depth locational content, user and expert blogs that can take you off the beaten track, and individual or group tour booking services.

September 19, 2010September 19, 2010  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

After 30 years, the Feast of Tabernacles celebration hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) has become an icon of Christian love and support for the Jewish state.


This year, the theme of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles is "Jerusalem: A Praise in the Earth," which harkens back to the founding principle of the ministry - to support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.


"The Feast theme of 'Jerusalem: A Praise in the Earth' is meant to emphasize the original mandate of our ministry at our founding, which was to stand in solidarity with Israel in its 3000 year-old claim and connection to Jerusalem," ICEJ Media Director David Parsons told Travelujah. "The future of this city is once again coming into focus worldwide, and we will be laying stress to the fact that our position remains the same as three decades ago - that Jerusalem is and should remain the united capital of Israel only."


Parsons said that during this year's Feast,which began on September 23 and runs through September 29th,  the various speakers and lecturers will be expounding upon the "rich biblical truths concerning Jerusalem and its central place in God's redemptive plan."


That message will also hit home for many Israelis who remember well the mass exodus of foreign embassies from Jerusalem in 1980 when Israel officially reunited the city by annexing its eastern, Arab-dominated half.


The Feast of Tabernacles and the founding of the ICEJ was a direct response to that exodus, and was welcomed by Israelis who were feeling increasingly isolated as the first major act of Christian kindness since the nation's rebirth.


Held every year during the week-long biblical feast of Sukkot (tabernacles), the Feast of Tabernacles sees upwards of 5,000 Christians from more than 100 different nations flood Jerusalem carrying a message of love, hope and peace for the Jewish people.


Jerusalem Parade

The ICEJ was actually born out of that first Feast of Tabernacles celebration in 1980. The Feast event became the centerpiece of the ICEJ's mission to comfort Israel and the Jewish people, as well as begin the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy stating that "the nations...shall come up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16)


During the Feast of Tabernacles, which has for years been held at the Jerusalem Convention Center, participants are treated to daily seminars about Israel's place in their Christian faith, the Hebraic roots of the Church and the difficulties facing the modern Jewish state. Every evening, the participants come together in the Convention Center's main hall for a time of worship, biblical performances, and teachings and speeches by renowned scholars and top Israeli officials. Booths are set up for other local Christian ministries engaged in aiding and comforting Israel to get to know the thousands of Feast participants.


On one very special night, as many Israelis as can fit in the Convention Center are invited to come and see just how the Christians are celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles and to hear a special message of reconciliation and support after so many centuries of widespread Christian persecution of the Jews.


Ryan Jones writes for  Travelujah, a Christian social network focused on fostering a deeper connection with faith through Holy Land tours. You can plan, learn and share your holy land experience on Travelujah using our in-depth locational content, user and expert blogs that can take you off the beaten track, and individual or group tour booking services.

September 20, 2010September 20, 2010  0 comments  Jewish Holidays

Sukkot: It's a Party, Israeli Style!

Israel is a country that loves to celebrate. A popular Hebrew saying is "You don't need a reason to have a party!" And Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles, tops the list as one of the happiest times of the year. In fact, one of the Biblical names given to Sukkot is "The Time of Our Joy." After the solemnity of the High Holy Days, especially after the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur, everyone is ready to celebrate!

Sukkot is a two-pronged holiday. Historically, it commemorates the Israelites' sojourn in the desert, when they lived in sukkot (huts); agriculturally, it celebrates the harvest and ushers in the rainy season. Jews give up the modern-day comforts of home to live in a sukkah (singular of sukkot) for the week.

Sukkot (also spelled "Sukkoth" or "Succoth") usually falls around September or October. This year, it starts on the eve of September 22nd and ends at sunset on September 30th. The first and last days (both Thursdays this year) are a holiday, during which no work can be done, similar to the Sabbath. During the intermediate days, however, the country is overflowing with people enjoying hikes, museums, parks, or simply reveling in the sights of a country celebrating.  


The Feast of Tabernacles - A Week of Prayer and Celebration

For the Christian tourist in Israel during this exciting time, there is no shortage of things to do and sights to see. Join the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) for their annual Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and participants enjoy daily seminars and workshops, along with nightly worships and celebrations. It is a popular event which draws Christians from around the world, who come to express their love for the Holy Land as well as fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah (14:16), which states that people will come to the Holy Land every year to worship God and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Read more about the Feast here. You can register online by clicking the "Register Now" button. Don't miss out on the opportunity to celebrate this Biblical holiday with your fellow worshippers.


The Priestly Benediction - A Unique, if Crowded, Experience

If you don't mind a crowd, then plan on attending the "birkat kohanim" at the Western Wall. Birkat kohanim is the special priestly benediction, and it is said en masse at the Western Wall on the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot. Thousands of Jews flock to the Kotel (Hebrew for the Western Wall) to receive the blessing. The communal birkat kohanim event is traditionally held on the second intermediate day of Sukkot, which this year falls on Sunday, September 26. Plan to get there early, and take public transportation - parking will be hard to come by.


Western Wall

Museums are Celebrating, Too

Israel's renowned museums love to get in on the action during the holidays. The Israel Museum, in Jerusalem, was recently renovated and boasts numerous new exhibits, focusing on everything from contemporary art, to Biblical archaeology, to Israeli jewelers. There are also special Sukkot workshops and activities taking place during the week, including an Artists' Sukkot, Poems, Singing and Storytelling for children and parents, and Dramatic Tours of the Museum Galleries. During Sukkot, you can hop on a free shuttle from the Haleom Parking Lot in Jerusalem directly to the museum.


Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, also called the Diaspora Museum, is located in Tel Aviv. New this year, the museum will be hosting a three-day Family Festival, to be held on September 26, 27, and 28, from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. The festival promises to entertain as well as educate you. Enjoy a Jewish music performance, visit "Sukkot City" (an exhibition of artistic sukkot), or join your kids at holiday-themed workshops geared especially toward them.


Take Your Museum Outdoors

Ein Yael, Israel's "living museum," is located near the Malcha train station in Jerusalem. Known for their educational, kid-friendly atmosphere, they certainly do not disappoint at Sukkot time. This year, Ein Yael presents a Sukkot Festival. Learn the ins and outs of ancient crafts and farming techniques, attend plays and colorful street performances, meet craftsmen from "ancient Rome," tour the farmer's market for one-of-a-kind delicacies, or relax in the sukkah with a coffee and some live music.


Park It Here

Don't forget the Great Outdoors - the continuing warm weather makes Sukkot a beautiful time to be outside in one of Israel's dozens of national parks. The Dead Sea and the Ein Gedi oasis are popular jaunts this time of year, but check out www.parks.org.il for information on some of Israel's lesser-known, but no less stunning, parks. Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel, has a variety of Sukkot-related events and exhibits on its sprawling grounds, located just a few minutes from Ben-Gurion Airport. The four species that the Israelites are commanded to take on Sukkot grow here, in their natural habitat, and the park also has a comprehensive display of different, life-size Sukkot, and a variety of workshops and crafts. (Note: Both the national parks and Neot Kedumim have English websites.)

Olive Press at Neot Kedumim

An Olive Press at Neot Kedumim.


You can also join a guided tour of the Judean Lowlands on Tuesday, September 28. The tour is taking place at Park Brittania, which includes miles of hiking and biking trails, breathtaking views, and fascinating archaeological ruins. The tour lasts about three hours, and is free of charge, though advance reservations are needed. The program is officially in Hebrew, but don't be scared off. Most of the guides know English and will gladly translate. Call 1-800-350-550 to reserve a spot.


A Pressing Matter

You've probably read about the health benefits of olive oil. Now come press your own, like the original inhabitants of the land! Every year, Israel's olive orchards are open to visitors to come try their hand at pressing olives. On Sunday, September 26, from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM, you can visit the Lavi Forest, located in the Galilee, for olive pressing and other hands-on activities. The Ben Shemen Forest, more centrally located, has its day on Monday, September 27 from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Hebrew is the language of the day here as well, but most guides will give an English explanation  if you just ask.


Self-Guided Walking Tours - Go at Your Own Pace

For those that enjoy a leisurely stroll, the outdoor market (shuk) at Mahane Yehuda and the streets of Jerusalem are jam-packed with sights during this holiday. Check out the festively decorated sukkot crammed onto every balcony, and watch where you walk, because nearly all of the kosher restaurants will erect sukkot on the streets for their religious patrons. The advantage of this "tour" is that it starts and ends when you want it, is as leisurely or intense as you make it, and it's free! (That is, if you can restrain yourself from buying some of the many enticing delicacies you will pass along the way...)


Machane Yehuda

Fruit and Vegetable juice stand at Machene Yehuda


Whether you're outdoorsy, indoorsy, or a little bit of both, Sukkot offers memorable opportunities for the Christian traveler in Israel. Enjoy this festive week during your own personal sojourn here in the Holy Land.

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Gila Rose writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network where people can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences. Travelujah offers over 550 pages of content including expert and user blogs, mass and service times, travel resources and custom booking services for tailor made group tours, hotels and Christian guest houses throughout the Holy Land.


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