Keeping the Feast in a Challenging TimePublished on: 3.12.2020
By: Julaine Stark
Late in 2019, when the ICEJ began to prepare for the Feast of Tabernacles 2020, which would mark the organisation’s 40th Anniversary, little did we know the impact COVID-19 would have on Israel and the entire world just a few months later. As Israel’s borders remained closed to tourism month after month, the ICEJ’s leadership worldwide sought the Lord’s wisdom and direction on how to “keep the Feast”, as Zechariah 14:16 commands, even with the shutdowns and travel restrictions.
“If people cannot come to celebrate Sukkot with us in Jerusalem, we felt the Lord directing us to broadcast the Feast from Jerusalem to make it available for viewing in every living room, church and nation”, explained ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler. “We quickly saw the opportunity with an online Global Feast to reach more people with more Feast content than we have ever offered before. This included seven daily live worship services from Jerusalem and over 80 seminar sessions, all featuring an anointed array of Israeli and international speakers and worship artists.”
To bring this vision to pass, the ICEJ began working with major Christian TV channels TBN and GOD TV, among other partners, and employed the skills of Israeli software experts to create an online conference platform which not only took the Feast around the world, but will also serve the ministry for years to come.
Taking it ‘Global’
What exactly does it look like to take Israel’s largest annual Christian gathering, which has attracted thousands of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem from over 100 nations every year since 1980, and adapt it to become a virtual, online event?
With Israel’s borders closed to travellers and ‘Feast Team Members’ this year, it fell on every department to shift the way we prepared for this Feast: From the TV team scouting venues and our social media team producing new virtual promotional content, to the contributions of ICEJ branches producing seminar videos, this Feast was truly a global collaborative effort.
Feast webinars recount Feast miracles
In another ‘first’ for Feast 2020, Dr Bühler and Tiffany Mallillin, the Feast Registrar, began hosting special local and international guests for a series of weekly Feast Webinars, streamed on ICEJ social media. The premiere episode featured Hossam Nabil straight from Egypt, who described the ‘miraculous rain’ which fell in Cairo at the very moment Egyptian Christians ‘appeared before the Lord’ on stage at last year’s Feast in Jerusalem.
Other highlights included: South African evangelist Angus Buchan recalling the miraculous ‘mighty rushing wind’ of the Holy Spirit during opening night of Feast 2012; Hananya Naftali who produces social media content for Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office; ICEJ-Canada’s Adam Gabeli with his miracle healing story; and Apostle Alberto Magno from ICEJ-Bolivia whose church brings a ‘miracle convoy’ to the Feast every year. These episodes, and others, may be viewed on ICEJ’s Facebook and YouTube channels.
Local partners and hi-tech solutions
At the center of this transition to a virtual event was an online conference platform designed specifically for the ICEJ in cooperation with Sar-El Media, an Israeli production company operated by local believers. This platform, designed specifically for the ICEJ, was an unanticipated blessing as it is now available for future Feasts and other special events and initiatives, making our Israel-related content from Jerusalem more widely available than ever before!
Developing a platform like this from scratch in two months was a major feat, made possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of Sar-El Media, the programmers, and the ICEJ’s Chief Information Officer, Alex Mills. Featuring simultaneous translations of live events in 10 languages, plus additional language capabilities, makes the content widely available around the globe for many nations and language groups. Feast 2020 seminars and all special content are still available for viewing on demand through October 2021, through either the 40th Anniversary Package or the Bless Israel Package (details on page 15).
Birthed and sustained in prayer
When the ICEJ was founded in 1980, it was actually birthed in the prayers of intercessors and, throughout the years, prayer has been an integral part of each Feast. In 2016, using the outdoor Sukkah constructed just outside Jerusalem’s Pais Arena, the ICEJ began offering a Sukkah prayer watch, inviting the pilgrims in attendance to bring prayer, praise and worship in their language to the Lord on behalf of their nations.
This year’s Feast featured a 24/7 Zoom Virtual Prayer Room, with watches focusing on different language groups and regions of the world. Continuous prayer and worship went up from Jerusalem and the nations throughout the days of this Feast!
In spite of the new and daunting aspects of producing this year’s event, the spiritual significance of this “Feast of the Lord” stays the same. Abby Bakke, Assistant TV Producer, said it well: “Working on the Feast this year has had many more technical and logistical challenges. But what is the same is believers will still come together to celebrate the God of Israel and the Nations, to dive deeper into knowing Him, and to celebrate His faithfulness. That will never change.”
You may still “appear in Zion” this year by taking advantage of either the 40th Anniversary Package or the Bless Israel Package, giving you access to the rich content from the online Global Feast of Tabernacles 2020 through October 2021. Join us as we all “Prepare the Way of the Lord!”