Closing, opening of embassies in backdrop of 40-year history of ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem

Forty years ago, as all 13 foreign embassies in Jerusalem were being closed in international protest over a law declaring the city the united capital of Israel, a group of Christians responded to the Jewish nation’s hurt by establishing the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) and bringing 1 000 Christians from around the world to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in the holy city.

In the following decades the annual ICEJ feast has brought more than 100 000 Christians to Jerusalem, becoming the biggest annual tourism event in Israel.

In two days, on Friday October 2, at a time when foreign embassies have begun to return to Jerusalem and Israel is normalising relations with former enemies, the annual ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles will bring thousands of Christians to Jerusalem again — but for the first time, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the global celebration will be virtual.

While Israel, whose very existence has been aggressively opposed since the birth of the modern nation in its ancient homeland in 1948, is still the target of disproportionate hostility and bigotry from numerous quarters, there has been a significant shift in its diplomatic relations in recent times, with the United States and Guatemala opening embassies in Jerusalem in 2018 and Honduras, Serbia, Kosovo, Malawi, Uganda and Chad among those who are lined up to follow or who are considering doing likewise. The Jewish state’s recent historic normalisation of relations with United Arab Emirates and Bahrain is also expected to see other Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa following suit, representing an acceptance of Israel’s right to exist which would have been unthinkable in the days of escalating international isolation when the ICEJ was established.

The first ICEJ Christian Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem in 1980

Vivienne Myurgh, national director of ICEJ South Africa, said registration in SA for the online Feast of Tabernacles event was going “very well” and that registration was also open for events in Paarl, Stellenbosch, East London and some other centres where people will gather together to watch the feast.

South Africans can register online here at a special discounted price and anybody who would like to find out about a possible feast event near them or who would like to register, is welcome to contact the ICEJ SA office at 021 879 1788 or office@icej.org.za, she said.

The global online feast celebration includes live worship led by Israeli and international worship leaders, over 80 seminar teachings by Israeli and international speakers and virtual tours of Israel. The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is the third great annual pilgrimage festival when Jewish people gather in Jerusalem, to remember God’s provision in the wilderness and also to look ahead to a promised Messianic age when all nations will flow to Jerusalem to worship the Messiah King. Historically Sukkot has always been a joyous feast to which all people were invited and to Christians it is a reminder of God’s provision of His Son Jesus as our Saviour and Lord and points to His Second Coming.

Commenting on the history of the ICEJ, Myburgh said: “South Africans have truly been blessed to have played a key role in the ICEJ
from its inception and continue to strongly support the ICEJ through the local branch.”

She said she had spoken to Johan Luckhoff, a SA Dutch Reformed Church minister who from an early age had felt a strong calling for Israel. He felt that the Lord had led him to be based in Jerusalem in the late 1970s from where he travelled to many nations, speaking to them
about the place and calling of Israel among the nations.

Luckhoff was part of the initial group who were led to establish the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in 1980 in Jerusalem and was its first director, supported by a very passionate Jan Willem van der Hoven, as the international director, she said

Malcolm Hedding took over the leadership of the ICEJ in 1999 until 2010, when current director Jeurgen Beuhler took over.

At the 2006 Feast of Tabernacles, the ICEJ announced it had reached the 100 000 milestone in helping Jews to return home.  The ICEJ invested over $40m (R662.29m) to achieve this milestone.

The main goals of ICEJ have always been to speak comfort to Israel — inspired by Isaiah 40:1 — by serving as a conduit through which believers around the world can show their love and support to Israel; and to stand as a prophetic voice concerning God’s plan to fulfil His covenants to Israel to restore them to their land and to a right relationship with Him.

In addition to their humanitarian support of the Jewish people, some 20% of ICEJ funds are targeted to assist the needs of the Arab, Druze and Bedouin minorities who make up a corresponding proportion of Israel’s population.

In 2009, ICEJ began a partnership with a local charity to provide a home for lonely Holocaust survivors in the port city of Haifa

 

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