This is one of the busiest times of the year as people from all over the world travel to recognize key dates and holidays.
If you ever have the chance to go to Israel at this time of year, you’ll find it’s holiday and party time, unlike the laborious industries and commercial lifestyles they traditionally enjoy. It is also one of the busiest tourist times of the year, as Jews from all over the world come to visit recognizing the key dates and holidays that take place. In addition to the Jewish people visiting Israel during the holidays, thousands of Christians will normally celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Israel.
For the Jewish people, it begins with Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year which takes place this year from September 25-27. It is the first of the Jewish holy days as listed in Leviticus 23 followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Jewish people attend a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and should not work on these dates. There is the sound of the Shofar horn and when they greet each other they say “L’shanah tovah”, which means “Happy New Year”. It is a celebration of the creation of man serving as the day of the coronation of God as King.
Yom Kippur took place this year on October 4 and 5 and is Judaism’s holiest day focused on atonement and repentance. Jewish congregations spend their time in prayer and meditation and end with the closing prayers and again the sounding of the Shofar. One year Sandra and I were in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. Tel Aviv is a bustling city on the Mediterranean coast, with a population of just under half a million, but it felt like a deserted city at that time.
This gloomy holy event leads five days later to the Feast of Sukkot, which is also called the Feast of the Sheds and or the Feast of Tabernacles. This year, it lasted from Sunday October 9 to Sunday October 16. Sukkot commemorates for the Jewish people the 40 years they lived in the desert after their exodus from Egypt and before crossing the Jordan relying on the protection and grace of God. .
During this holiday, Jewish families build a hut or temporary hut-like shelters in remembrance of their ancestor’s journey through the desert and of God’s faithfulness. It is amazing to visit the families and see the effort they put into preparing for the celebration and walk through the neighborhoods during this time to see the balconies of the apartments with their symbolic foliage of the shelters. When you walk into hotel dining rooms and see the resemblance of cabins, you are amazed.
For Christians visiting Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles, there is an event organized by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which was founded in 1980 as an embassy representing Christians around the world that would be held at sides with Israel unlike so many countries that claimed they would move their embassy to Jerusalem but reneged on their promises.
During the holiday there is a roll call of nations and this year there were 85 countries represented with a full week of seminars, exhibitions, worship times including Christians with their national flags having a parade at Jerusalem to the cheers of the Jewish people. Then the prime minister or a member of the Knesset will be present and thank the Christian participants for their support of Israel.
A unique climax; we had organized a tour for the Canadians of Israel during the Feast and when visiting Mount Carmel it was our group’s intention to sing In the time of Elijah. As our tour guide was explaining the importance of this site, suddenly a group of about 25 Christians from South Africa came to the top of Mount Carmel with the same intention of singing the same song. You can imagine the uniqueness of believers from Canada and South Africa worshiping together atop Mount Carmel.
During the feast there is an anticipation of the Messiah – for the Jewish people, their first time; and for Christians, his return.
John Grady lives and writes in Fort St. John