The Feast of Tabernacles begins Thursday evening at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center with delegations from countries that include Australia, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and the United States. The event is the largest solidarity mission to Israel this year, injecting an estimated $15 to $18 million into the local economy.

Pilgrims will come to pray for peace in Jerusalem and to extend their blessings to Israel. They believe that commemorating the feast is a step towards the fulfilment of the prophecy of Zecharia, which anticipated that "the nations shall go [to Jerusalem] every year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Succot."

The first feast took place in September 1980 and was organized by mainly local pro-Israel Christian leaders. Around 1,000 pilgrims from 40 nations attended and as a result, the Christian Embassy was established to express year-round support with Israel. This was at a time when the last remaining thirteen national embassies had just left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv.

This year, the celebration includes an interesting roster of speakers, headed by Angus Buchan, a South African farmer-turned-evangelist, whose tale is told in the book and movie, Faith Like Potatoes. Another fascinating speaker is Pastor Werner Oder, the son of an Austrian Nazi war criminal, who is today a Christian minister in England and an outspoken friend of Israel.

Israeli dignitaries expected to address the gathering in person include Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, MK David Rotem, Chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov will greet the delegation by video.

Celebrations include a huge variety of activities, music, worship, performances, outdoor events and seminars, all of which culminates in the grand finale evening celebration and the Jerusalem March. “Most pilgrims love being part of the march,” says David Parsons, Media Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. “It allows them to go into the streets of Jerusalem and express their love and support directly to the Israeli people.” Also popular is the outdoor event at Ein Gedi.

“The feast is very challenging for those of us who organize it each year, as it is a huge undertaking to host so many people from so many different countries,” says David. “But it is a very rewarding and memorable time to see old friends each year and new faces as well, while also experiencing the "joy" of Succot. This is truly a week where we can sense the joy of God's presence like in the age to come”.

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