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Jerusalem March & Israeli Night - Feast 2019

Nov/Dec 2019 WFJ Article

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19 Nov 2019
Jerusalem March & Israeli Night - Feast 2019

Winds of Change in the Middle East
Pilgrims arrived early Thursday morning for prayer and worship ahead of the day’s rich and thought-provoking seminars. Rev. Mats-Ola Iskhoel oversees a network of 400 churches in Russia and brought a hope-filled challenge: “Sometimes, we start off in life with a dream and it doesn’t work out, but God takes the clay and starts over and He makes something beautiful. This is the story of Israel… If the clay of your life is marred, He can take it and start over and make something beautiful despite what came before.” In Breakthrough in Saudi Arabia, CBN’s Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell discussed Saudi Arabia’s incredible transformation, such as the Saudi Crown Prince’s recent meeting with Evangelical Christian leaders, and ‘Vision 2030’, the government’s initiative to diversify their economy and attract Christian tourism. Chris’ interview with three young Saudis highlighted the impact of these sweeping reforms, especially for women. Then in a dramatic moment, author Joel Richardson addressed the audience from the possible site of Mt. Sinai in the Saudi desert via a live Skype call and openly displayed a Bible, reading from Isaiah 60. Richardson led this first-ever tour for Christian tourists to the Saudi Kingdom. 

Ingolf Ellssel, ICEJ Board chairman, gave a prophetic perspective on current events, stressing: “If God is doing something new, He first reveals it to His prophets.” Ellssel pointed to Deuteronomy 30:3, explaining God will first gather His people and then redeem them. Christian involvement is so crucial, since every revival requires prayer beforehand. Despite dark times, Ellssel encouraged prayer and time in God’s Word as our highest priority, adding: “God is still sovereign; these difficulties will not destroy us, they will bring us back to God.”

Local Believers and their challenges were addressed by a panel of Jewish and Arab pastors living in the Holy Land.
• Messianic pastor Berlie Belay described the Ethiopian community in Israel’s unique situation: “God is using the Ethiopian Jews for a new revival” and thanked the attendees “for what you are doing [through the ICEJ] in bringing the Ethiopian Jews back to Israel.”
• Ashdod pastor Israel Pochtar said, “When I share with my neighbors about the love of Christians… my neighbors have a hard time believing me.”
• Discussing the spiritual life of the local Christian Arab community, Jerusalem pastor Basaam Adranley reported “seven Arabs were baptised last month and many are coming to know the Lord… There is a big struggle against what God is about to do” but they continue to persevere: “When we feel like we have lost our vision, God tells us to stand because He is faithful. 

Jerusalem March
Each year, the festive Jerusalem March is a highlight for both our Feast pilgrims who march and the tens of thousands of Israelis who line the streets of Jerusalem to greet them. This year, thousands of Christians from over 100 nations, attired in national costumes and waving their flags, paraded once more through the streets of Jerusalem to express solidarity and love to the people of Israel. As the nations lined up in Sacher Park, Chayapat from Thailand, dressed in his traditional Thai costume, said: “We appreciate so much to walk and see all the nations as one family, and to show all of the Jewish people that we love them because of Yeshua.”

The Jerusalem March is an event that must be experienced to fully understand the impact, both on the Israeli spectators and Christian marchers. Petra Gorny, a Feast volunteer from Germany, shared: “The March was awesome because it was a witness of just how many people from the nations love Israel. One could see how the local Israelis were touched by this, and sense how much they desired to be accepted both by their neighbours and other nationalities, and the Jerusalem March is proof this can be achieved.” Rene from the Cook Islands was the youngest in her group: “This is my first year at the Feast and I am 14 years old. It is really nice and I want to come back next year. It has been fun to interact with other people. God has a new beginning for me. I am not sure yet what it is, but I am excited.” Moises Vasquez from Australia (pictured above) marched with other Aussies while using his phone to live-stream through ICEJ’s official Facebook page, allowing our friends and followers from around the world to virtually walk amongst the pilgrims. “The waves of people from every tongue, tribe and nation set the city abuzz, and smiling faces of all ages lined both sides of the streets”, recalled Moises. “It’s become one of my best highlights and why wouldn’t it when I get to yell out ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ in Jerusalem and hear back the response ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’!” 

As thousands of Christians declared God’s love for the Jewish people and Israel, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to receive this “hug” from the nations. As one family expressed it, “It’s beautiful and they come here every year. They come only because they love Israel. It is amazing!” 

Historic Skype call: Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem’s Main Stage
History was made when Feast pilgrims witnessed a live Skype call between Dr Bühler from the main stage of the Pais Arena in Jerusalem to Christian author Joel Richardson speaking LIVE from Al Bayad, Saudi Arabia, believed to be the actual site of Mt. Sinai. During the Special Presentation: Breakthrough in Saudi Arabia, Feast pilgrims watched in amazement at the big screens as Joel pointed out the possible Altar to the Golden Calf behind him, then turned 180 degrees to show Mt. Sinai – where Moses would have received the law directly from God’s hand – with the split rock clearly visible in the foreground. During the call, Joel openly held up his Bible and read from it, something which would have been unthinkable until now.

The Nations Celebrate With Israeli Guests
After an exciting afternoon of enthusiastic marching through Jerusalem, pilgrims filled the Arena for a spectacular evening with our Israeli friends. Ray Sidney and his international choir knocked it out of the park with their explosive worship to the King of Kings. Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency spoke of the Christian Embassy’s vital role in bringing the Jewish people back to Israel: “We are following in the footsteps of the Bible and the prophets in the redemption of the Jewish people, and therefore we are doing it with partners. And one of our most important strategic partners is the ICEJ”, he said. “It’s an incredible organisation that works with us, and personally, since I started my long political and public career I have found the ICEJ in many spheres of life in Israel.” Herzog then presented Dr Jürgen Bühler with an award on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Israel. On the award was inscribed Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” 

Nehemiah Award honors lifetime achievement
The ICEJ also presented its annual Nehemiah Award to Rev. Michael Utterback, a Christian leader with a lifetime of achievements in building support for Israel and the Jewish people. An ordained minister with the Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee, Rev. Utterback first established Ministry to Israel (MTI) in 1988 in response to a unique vision to become engaged in the great Ingathering of the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland in Israel. In 1991, Utterback’s MTI began partnering with ICEJ and other organisations to assist Jewish families in making the journey home to Israel. Over the next 30-plus years, he thrust himself into facilitating Aliyah: From fishing activities across vast expanses of Russia, to sponsoring transport operations and airline flights, to planting new immigrants securely in the Land of Israel. Including Aliyah efforts of the ICEJ, Ezra International, and his own MTI, Michael Utterback assisted tens of thousands of Jewish people to return to Israel. In receiving the award, Michael shared, “I am very honoured. The ICEJ has been in my heart for many years.” He also observed, “There is no other nation like the nation of Israel. This is a land of miracles. It is in the DNA of every Jew. Miracles are not a strange thing for Jewish people… The fact that Israel exists is a modern-day miracle. There is a good reason why.”

“Our dear Jewish friends that are here tonight, many of you have made Aliyah to this land. I want to tell you that YOU are a miracle. You are witnesses to the nations of the earth that the God of Israel keeps His promises. You had to come back to this land, so that the nations could know that the God of Israel is truly God.” Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, he underscored the prophetic significance of Gentile involvement in Aliyah. “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and tell it to the isles far off, He who scattered Israel will gather them.” Addressing Israeli guests, he added: “You are here tonight because it is God Himself who brought you. He brought you to Himself so He could embrace you and show you how much He loves you... Your God is watching over Israel tonight and He cares about you. I want you to know that I love you too.” 

For over 30 years, Rev. Michael Utterback has travelled worldwide and spoken as an advocate for Israel. His roles with the ICEJ included Liaison to Churches, International Director, and member of the ICEJ’s international Board of Trustees. Today, Michael remains active in Aliyah and absorption efforts with MTI and as International Director for Ezra International. Michael and his wife Gina live in Jerusalem and have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Renowned violinist Serguei Popov came to the stage for his traditional Feast solo performance, yet this year he was accompanied on the piano by an old friend from musical college days. This was no ordinary “old friend”, but Roman Polanski, Director of Russian Aliyah for the Jewish Agency.
This past spring, Roman was a guest speaker at an ICEJ reception in Jerusalem, where he reconnected with Serguei after 35 years apart, only to find both were now fully involved in Aliyah work, with Serguei serving as ICEJ’s Coordinator for the Central Asian Republics.

A troupe of Taiwanese dancers brought excitement and cultural flavour to Israeli Guest Night. With exotic, colourful costumes, skilled dancers performed tribal dances of worship to the Lord, involving long bamboo sticks which fellow dancers moved in unison under their feet with speed and precision. It was truly a flawless performance which left the audience in awe of this unique Chinese tradition.

New in 2019 International Gospel Choir Debuts for Israeli Guests
By Fiona Chow, Media Feast Team, Finland

Months ago, Feast Executive Producer Michael Mann reached out to Feast worship alum Ray Sidney with this request: “I would love to have a Holy Ghost party on Israeli night with a large gospel choir on stage worshipping our King. Is this at all possible?” In faith, Ray responded with an enthusiastic, ¨Yes!¨ Ray, an American Gospel singer who has served on the Feast worship team, immediately shared the idea with two long-time Feast singers from Finland, Linda Laukkkonen and Fiona Chow, who he was visiting. Within a few months, thirty singers had committed to sing, and the ICEJ’s first-ever International Gospel Choir was born. Compromised of singers from six nations (Finland, Canada, Fiji, Norway, the Philippines and the USA), the choir’s energy, unity and strong message of hope had the audience dancing and praising through every song. Everyone agreed this was an historic moment at the Feast that should become an annual feature of Israeli Guest Night.