Our Succot Message to Israel: ‘Believe Your Prophets!’Published on: 28.9.2023
By: David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
This was meant to be the year Israel celebrated its 75th anniversary as a restored nation. But there have been many disruptions that have drawn attention away from this important milestone – the sharp internal divisions over judicial reform, the persistent threat of Palestinian terrorism, and the looming danger of a nuclear Iran, to name a few.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials also have been under pressure to deal with a recent spike in Jewish harassment and attacks on Christians, which has brought yet another challenge to the nation’s already over-stretched police and security forces.
Oddly, the recent Jewish agitation against Christians has included raucous protests against Evangelical Christians, who are widely considered to be good friends of Israel. Yet, the protestors and those who back them have expressed doubts about our friendship. They are afraid it is a cover for missionary activity. Others question our motives for standing with Israel, saying we are just here out of guilt for past Christian antisemitism, or we want to bring back Jesus, or – worst of all – we are out to force the Apocalypse.
On behalf of tens of millions of Evangelicals worldwide, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been refuting these claims for decades, both through our words and our benevolent deeds in the Land. Thankfully, many Israelis have come to trust Evangelical support. As for those who remain skeptics, we know it is not easy to turn attitudes around so quickly after centuries of Christian hostility and violence towards Jews.
But it is imperative that Israelis understand more clearly what is driving most Christian Zionists today. Succinctly, we are motivated by a compelling love to see the Jewish people safely reach their divinely appointed destiny back in the Land, as promised through Israel’s own Hebrew prophets.
We realize the Jewish people went through a long, hard journey of exile among the nations over many centuries, and this involved much suffering. Regrettably, many of these travails were inflicted by Christians.
Our Scriptures also tell us that much of Israel’s suffering was for our sake. That is, while dispersed among the nations the Jewish people brought great blessings to the Gentiles. Most notably, you brought us the Bible and the precious knowledge of the one true, loving Creator God and how we should walk uprightly before Him.
Christians also know God has given Israel great promises through the Hebrew prophets concerning your physical restoration to the Land and even a spiritual return to God. There are too many such prophetic passages to list here, but Ezekiel 36:24-38 is one of the clearest and most powerful of these hope-filled passages.
These same prophets also said that when God begins to regather the Jewish people back to the Promised Land, there would be Gentiles at your side to help with this great Ingathering, and even your own Jewish Sages have taught this down through time (see e.g., Isaiah 49:22-23).
Indeed, there has been a profound sea change in Christian attitudes towards the Jewish people in modern times. Whereas past generations of Christians reviled and persecuted the Jews in their midst, this has totally shifted today. When you look around the world at present, it is Christians who are standing with Israel, especially the Evangelicals – who now number over 700 million worldwide. The 400-year Evangelical movement largely was never involved in any forced conversions or acts of violent antisemitism against Jews. Yet we are the Christians most determined to do something to mend the wounds of that tragic legacy.
Thus, we are helping bring Jews home on Aliyah flights, caring for Holocaust survivors, fighting antisemitism, and providing bomb shelters for vulnerable Israeli communities. We care deeply about the security and future well-being of the Jewish nation and people. Thus, we also can zealously proclaim: Am Israel Chai – “The People of Israel Live!
This historic transformation of Christian views on Israel is displayed every year at the Feast of Tabernacles, when thousands of Christians gather from some 100 nations to celebrate Succot with the Jewish people in Jerusalem. For over forty years now, Christians have been faithfully coming to the Feast – even in times of war and terror campaigns, as only the global Covid pandemic managed to prevent their arrival. This year, thousands of Christians are ascending once again to Jerusalem to observe this festival of remembrance, harvest and joy alongside the Jewish people here in the Land of Israel.
Yet this, too, was foreseen by the Hebrew prophets. Our very first Succot gathering in 1980 was inspired by the vision of the prophet Zechariah, who foresaw a time when all the nations will ascend to Jerusalem “from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren recognized this connection when he spoke at the ICEJ’s second Feast celebration 42 years ago and proclaimed over our Christian delegates: “Blessed are they who come in the name of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:26)
Chief Rabbi Goren also told that Feast gathering: “Your sympathy, solidarity and belief in the future of Israel – this to us is tremendous. We consider you part of the fulfilment of the prophetic vision expressed by Zechariah in chapter 14. Your presence here will always remain a golden page in the book of eternity in heaven. May the Lord bless you out of Zion.” In that spirit, we will again celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles alongside the Jewish people over coming days. We know that this is a difficult time for the nation of Israel, with sharp divisions internally and many threats on your borders. But our presence here at this very time carries a message of solidarity and hope. So, we simply say: “Israel, believe your prophets.” For surely there are better days and even a glorious future ahead for this nation!
This commentary was also published in The Jerusalem Post under the title: Evangelical Christians are Fast Friends of the Jewish People.