Feast of Tabernacles

By: Laurina Driesse, with contributions from Tricia Neighbors and Lois Herrington

In late September, the ICEJ’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration drew over 3,000 Christian pilgrims to Israel, while several thousand more joined us on our online streaming platform and at Feast watch parties worldwide. The Feast theme this year was “King of all the Earth,” from Psalm 47:7 

DAY 1 – Opening Night at Ein Gev 
The Feast opened on 29 September at Ein Gev, on the beautiful Sea of Galilee, with a spirit of excitement and expectation in the air. The main speaker was evangelist Manasa Kolivuso from Fiji, who helped lead a large group of pilgrims from the Pacific island nations on an historic charter flight – the first time ever Fiji Airways landed in Israel. The Lord had inspired Pastor Manasa and ICEJ-Fiji national director Pastor Mikaele Mudreilagi to charter the flight and several groups from other Oceania nations joined in to make it happen. 

Pastor Manasa brought an inspiring message from Psalms 22 through 24. In Psalm 22, we see suffering, sorrow, and brokenness; in Psalm 23 we see the Great Shepherd leading, guiding, guarding, and offering His peace and rest; and in Psalm 24 we see Him as the King of Glory and experience His power and victory! Referencing Psalm 24:1 (“The earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”), Pastor Manasa reminded Feast pilgrims that we are “owners of nothing but stewards of everything. The earth is God’s by ownership, and it is ours by stewardship. God owns it all and deserves our praise and worship!” 

DAY 2 – Ein Gev celebration 
The second evening of our Feast celebration also took place at Ein Gev in the sweet presence of the Lord. Dr. Enoch Abeboye from Nigeria ministered from Mark 5: 1-20, showing how powerful the King of Kings is. Here we have the story of a man from Gadarene who was totally demon-possessed, but in the end this mad man became an evangelist for the Kingdom of God. Pastor Enoch encouraged the pilgrims by saying: “There is hope for you, and I want you to rejoice because it means no matter how low you are, your tomorrow will be alright.” He also reminded pilgrims that there are many kingdoms in the earth, each one having its own king, but there is only one person who is the King of Kings! He shared how even in the animal kingdom, the lion is king, but the King of all Kings also controls the lions and shuts their mouths as in the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. 

DAY 3 – Roll Call of the Nations in Jerusalem 
From the Galilee, Feast pilgrims ascended to Jerusalem for an amazing five days of celebrations! The opening night at the Jerusalem Pais Arena saw nearly 80 nations appear before the Lord in Zion. Delegates from each nation waved their country’s flag on stage in the colorful ‘Roll Call of the Nations’ – a highlight for many Feast goers. This year’s Roll Call included flag-bearers from Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Mongolia, and two pilgrims who appeared together from North and South Korea. 

Often, flag-bearers dress in their national attire and this year was no exception! And several shared their joy and pride in representing their country at the Feast. “I’m carrying the flag of my nation, and my desire is that God will move in the Philippines, and we will catch a new anointing in a new season,” said Rose Riviera. “I am representing Switzerland as an intercessor for our nation to the God of Israel. We bless Israel, console Israel, and love the people of Israel,” said Swiss believer Sabine Bartschi-Santmann. 

Feast participants also were welcomed in video greetings by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, who said: “It gives me great pleasure to send greetings to the entire Christian world and to the thousands of pilgrims who in these very moments are celebrating the festival of Succot with us here in the holy city. You are gathered here dear friends for this sacred pilgrimage from all corners of the earth, welcomed by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem … for my dwelling place shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” 

ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler then brought an anointed message on the King of Glory from Psalm 47. He reminded pilgrims that God is present wherever they gather, but there is something special about worshipping in the city of Jerusalem. “The Feast of Tabernacles is also a feast of prayer,” said Dr. Bühler. “God is calling you here in Jerusalem to a fresh and new lifestyle of prayer.” 

DAY 4 – Feast Youth Day 
The next day started with morning seminars that were impactful and thought-provoking messages on Israel and the New Testament, as well as the prophetic challenges of Artificial Intelligence and Transgenderism. 

The evening featured a joyous celebration with Messianic youth from across Israel raising one voice to offer songs of praise and worship in the fresh Hebraic style now coming from the Land of Israel.  Dr. Billy Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University, also shared on the ‘Power of One’ and the value of every person’s life to God. “The Shepherd is looking for one. No matter how broken, how crushed, He will change their life and through them will change the world,” said Dr. Wilson. “What is the potential in your life that needs to be unlocked? … Every single person on planet Earth is important to Christ.” 

DAY 5 – Israeli Guest Night 
The morning seminars began with local Messianic pastor Benjamin Berger, who spoke on “The Throne of David in Jerusalem.” Other speakers included Rania Sayegh, an Israeli Arab Christian prayer leader from Nazareth; Julia Popova from Moscow speaking on the move of God in Russia; and Sergey Shidlovskiy, who shared on prayer as the key to revival. 

The evening centered around our traditional Israeli Guest Night. With this year being the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, pilgrims heard from the legendary hero of that battle, IDF Brigadier General (Ret.) Avigdor Kahalani. He was an Israeli tank commander during the costly battle for the Golan and received the Medal of Valor, Israel’s highest military distinction. Kahalani reminded everyone that Jews have had little choice but to fight for their survival from generation to generation. 

Another highlight enjoyed by all was listening to Eva Erben, a Holocaust survivor who during the Second World War was deported to several concentration camps. She later endured the death march from Auschwitz and became the sole survivor of her family. She shared her incredible story of survival, hope and forgiveness. When asked what her secret was to keeping so young at heart, her immediate response was ‘love!’ Laughingly, she said: “Love is a very splendid thing, and you should fall in love with somebody because nobody is perfect, and you will never get a person who is exactly your taste!” 

DAY 6 – Garden Tomb and Jerusalem March 
The sixth day of the Feast began with a very special Communion service in the peaceful setting of the Garden Tomb, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls. There is always something special about this gathering around the Lord’s Table with believers from all over the world. Presiding over the Communion elements were local Jewish pastor Sasson Pochtar and Israeli Arab pastor Saleem Shalash. Rev. Malcolm Hedding delivered the main message and reminded all: “If we want to experience His mercy, and His grace, and His reconciling love, then we have to come to the Cross.” 

“It’s very special to be in Jerusalem and to know our Lord and Savior is no longer in the grave. Our Savior lives and gives us hope!” responded Tiara from the Cook Islands. 

In the afternoon, our Feast delegates made their way to the assembly point for the popular Jerusalem March through the streets of the capital. There was an incredible atmosphere of joy as Christians from some 90 nations expressed their love and support for the people of Israel, and were warmly received by a massive crowd of Israeli parade watchers. 

DAY 7 – Negev Solidarity Gathering and Healing Service 
Then on day seven, over 600 Feast pilgrims travelled from Jerusalem down to the Gaza border area for a solidarity gathering with Israeli communities in the Western Negev region. Among the speakers at this event were Sha’ar HaNegev mayor Ofir Libstein, and IDF (Res.) Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi. “How important it is to keep Israel safe and to fight for its security for generations to come, because there will always be enemies who want to destroy this jewel called the Land of Israel,” said Gen. Avivi. [Little did we know then that just two days later, thousands of Hamas terrorists from Gaza would invade this same area and commit mass murder against innocent Israeli civilians.] 

Next, a special ICEJ leadership delegation attended a tree-planting and dedication ceremony for our new “Christian Embassy Nature Park” located near the ANZAC Monument in the Be’eri Forest, just meters away from the Gaza security fence.  

After returning to Jerusalem, our Feast pilgrims attended a special Healing Service led by ICEJ-Philippines national director Pastor Stephen Mirpuri, who shared several personal testimonies about the many dramatic healings he has seen and experienced throughout his life, including the miracle birth of his first child. After the message, there was a powerful time of prayer for healing. 

DAY 8 – Prayer Vigil 
During the Feast, virtual pilgrims had the opportunity to unite with other believers in the online Prayer Succah to offer prayers for Israel, their respective countries, and their own families and communities. For the pilgrims who were physically present, a special dedicated Day of Prayer was held on the eighth day in the Jerusalem Pavilion. 

John from Poland said that this day was a highlight for him, especially to hear the prayers from so many countries. “It has been very worthwhile coming to hear the nations praying for their own nation. It’s been very touching, especially listening to the prayers for North Korea, for instance, where believers are having such a difficult time, and praying for a reunion with South Korea. We were thinking of only coming for our own nation, but it’s been worth it to listen to the other nations.”   

That evening, the Feast of Tabernacles 2023 ended with an amazing worship concert led by local singer/songwriter Shiloh Ben-Hod and his band SOLU-Israel. 
Hearing from the Pilgrims! 
As the Feast ended, we asked several pilgrims how they had enjoyed it? 

“It’s my first time in Israel, and it’s wonderful to see so many cultures coming here. I’ve enjoyed the whole conference and especially the Jerusalem March,” responded Boris from France. 

“I really enjoyed the Feast. It’s my first time to join the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles. I really love this place. I really love Israel. I enjoyed the presence of God here, and I received so much revelation from the Lord,” added Madelyn from the Philippines.