Participants at the Feast of Tabernacles March.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
During Sukkot, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) hosts thousands of Christians from more than 100 countries.
The holiday draws some 5,000 Christians to Jerusalem each year. Not only is the event a spiritual boost in which people come to express their love for Israel’s eternal capital, it also gives an economic boost, injecting $15-20 million into Israel’s economy each year.
The ICEJ began hosting the annual Feast of the Tabernacles gathering in 1980 as a visible show of solidarity and support for the city. That summer, the last of 13 embassies left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv in protest of the of the Knesset’s passage of the Jerusalem Law. This year can be seen as a triumphant shout now that the US Embassy has returned to the holy city.
Israelis, great and small, have always welcomed the event with open arms. Jerusalem’s mayor Teddy Kollek addressed the 1,000 pilgrims who attended the ﬁrst gathering. The next year, prime minister Menachem Begin attended, establishing a tradition for high-ranking Israeli politicians like prime minister Ariel Sharon and President Reuven Rivlin to attend the event.
The week is focused on the biblical feast of Sukkot, when pilgrims from nations around the world came to Jerusalem to participate in the Temple festivities in praise of the God of Abraham. This year, the 39th Feast of the Tabernacles will be held during the intermediate days of the holiday from September 23 to 28.
The festival has signiﬁcance for Christians. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as attending the Temple service on Sukkot. The universal aspect of the holiday also has prophetic overtones, as Zechariah foretold of a time when all nations would ascend to Jerusalem each year.
“All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to The King, Lord of Hosts and to observe the festival of Sukkot” (Zechariah 14:16).
Much of the feast gathering is given over to uplifting sermons and communal prayer sessions. The speakers will include key evangelical leaders, revival leaders as well as well-known media personalities. Most events are held at the Pais Arena Jerusalem but several take place in other signiﬁcant locations. The event also includes the annual “roll call of the nations,” when each country represented at the gathering is recognized.
The opening night gala is held at the Ein Gedi springs on the shores of the Dead Sea where, according to the Bible, the young David hid from King Saul. The gathering will kick off with a festive meal under palm trees followed by a concert and prayer service.
On the second day, a Communion service will be held at the Garden Tomb located just north of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, which some Christians believe to be the burial site of Jesus.
The third day will feature the Parade of Nations, a multinational expression of love for Jerusalem through the streets of the Holy City. A dazzling display of ﬂags from around the world is presented by participants dressed in their national garb. Intermingled with the international Christian participants dressed as kohanim, Temple priests, carrying models of the Ark of the Covenant.
The ICEJ will host an Israeli guest night on the last evening of the gathering with music and dance.
The prayer meeting to close the Feast of the Tabernacles event will be held at the Tower of David.