Today is the last day of Sukkot which is the last of a succession of several Jewish holidays in Israel.

Sunday of last week I got invited via another non-Jewish friend* to a party in a religious area of Jerusalem close to Meir Sherim.   There must of been 40-50 people in this structure, food was pretty good, my favourite was salmon in some kind of spicey sauce.   The religious Jews there ranged from Kippor wearing Americans on holiday from Texas to Ultra Orthodox with fox fur hats and stripey gowns, there were some Russian people there as they had a torah in their language.    Its touching that many Jews are happy to invite strangers over to their communities for this special holiday, and make sure there is enough food and seats for extra people to come at short notice, including anyone who might be lonely or away from family to join in.

Two days ago, on a Saturday I went to a friend’s house who teaches Hebrew and had another meal there too.

A lot of restaurants provide Sukkot tents outside their establishments for patrons to sit and eat.

* I meant to say, on the first party I went to, my friend who brought me along is an Arab believer in Jesus, perhaps seems unlikely story, but its thrilling to see genuine friendships between Jews and Arabs here.   On the way we got approached outside a different religious area by Orthodox Jews asking if we could help as their electricity and gone off and they needed someone gentile to flip the breaker switch, which they felt uncomfortable doing as it was a religious holiday, so we were happy to help.

All the holidays are now done, and its back to work tomorrow, no more holidays until Hanukah which is at the early part of December this year, as sometimes it runs parallel with Christmas.

Oh, something else very significant, both the early on in the festival of Sukkot and the last day, it rained!   Although we are in October it seems a little bit early for rain season.

In Jerusalem on the last day of Sukkot

Double celebrations! Sukkot in Jerusalem and Gilad Schalit’s release

During Sukkot, there is a march through the city each year, usually people from different government organisations like the army, the Magon David ambulance, El-Al airlines etc as well as groups of Christians from all over the world with flags from their respective countries.

The event was just over as I took this stretched picture, but people were sitting on hotel balconies and out in the street with armed guards and buses parked sideways in the roads as make shift barricades.

I heard on the news about the real possibility of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit and thought I would believe it when I see it, knowing that terrorist organisations should be not be trusted with any kind of deal.   It amazes me to think that a swap of 1,000 Palestinian terrorists for one soldier has not been condemned as wrong or immoral by the UN, Red Cross, any moderate Islamic organisations or indeed any nation at all.   A large number of these Palestinians were jailed for suicide bombings and other appalling tragedies.   Nevertheless this shows the people of Israel’s value of human life, I think Yeshua’s story about the lost sheep is quite relevant here: Luke 15 : 3-7

I had to run some errands for some people at work which involved taking a 8 mile or so ride in a car to drop off some food for a staff meeting.  On the way was a helicopter close to a main road that had either just landed or about take off next to a police station. Quite possibly part of the process of releasing the prisoners.

I have been praying for Gilad and written some updates here as I used to pass tents campaigning for his release every day. 

Later on I went to a convenience store to get something for lunch to see a 5 second video of Gilad drinking a bottle of water next to a helicopter and smiling, so this was proof Gilad was coming home and so desperately what the people of this nation wanted to see, although there was understandable anguish from families who had lost loved ones to terrorism.

If you see the tall overhead traffic light in the above picture, if you turn right, this heads down Berlin Street, just a few yards down there is the Gilad Schalit tent which I have visited before.   This place is a kind of protest structure and shrine to this young man locked up for 5 years.

Outside this spot, there isn’t as many people as I thought, but the atmosphere is still buzzing!!

Here, I got to watch the TV on a projector as they showed Gilad in a car been taken to his parents house in the upper Galilee, there is a emotional sense of satisfaction as it shows the front door of his family’s home shut giving him some much needed privacy and he looked clearly pale and disoriented when on the TV.

This was a really good to be in this city when this history making event happened.

I think we need thanks for our loving Father in heaven that has been a happy ending to this ordeal, and I hope everyone in Israel and overseas who has been watching this does too.

Part of the quirky nature of Jerusalem means I often see friends, Christian, Jewish and Arab, natives, immigrants and foreigners accidentally in different parts of the city, I hope to one day see Gilad here and shake his hand when hes in a fit state to get around. 🙂   I expect hes going to want to know what a Facebook is and amazed at the amount of publicity there has been to get him free.

A few days ago, a friend from my church pointed out some interesting scripture about Sukkot and foreign Christians gentiles visiting…  more soon!

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles concert

Last week I want to the first event at the Feast of Tabernacles at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) at a hotel here Jerusalem.   I personally know quite a few of the volunteers from this organisation and this is their busiest time as they put on a 5 day event for Christians supporting Israel and the Jewish people.

On the thursday we got our tickets and queued up, my friend John who came to visit me and two friends who are fellow volunteers at Bridges for Peace.

There is some really good speaking followed by a translator which was in surprise, Portuguese!  There were a lot of attendees from Brazil.   Actually there were people there from all over the world, with different groups of believers who got up on stage with flags representing their countries, not unlike the Olympics or Eurovision, there were even people from Egypt and Jordan there.   In the lobby outside I got chatting to some people from Finland who were waving their white and blue flags.

For anyone often thinking that Christian supporters of Israel = Nutters, well I support Israel, but number One – I love Jesus, and this land played a part in the events of the bible, there is still an important role in what the Lord has still for this country today and in the future.    Its important that Christians reject the common but completely bogus “replacement theology” doctrine which mistakenly gives the impression that the Israel mentioned in the bible is a metaphor for today’s church.   Check out Romans 11 : 1 which clears up this confusion.

The worship consists of a band with about 20 musicians and there are many dancers and acrobats.  I particularly liked the version of Paul Baloche’s Glorious (heres a Youtube clip of a version of this song)  which has become recently one of my favourite worship tracks.

During this event, there was a man from the Israeli government who came to show his thanks for the support (I forget his name)  as the Embassy has always had good relationships with government here, and they are now celebrating their 30th year here supporting this nation.   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an appearance, but via a recording on a TV screen at the beginning.

After the event, there was a variety of stands outside you can visit and get food, falafels, hotdogs etc and drinks whilst wandering around.   One of the stands I saw was the blacksmith who recycles rockets that hits Jewish towns close to the Gaza strip into a variety of table decorations and candlesticks, I blogged on recently.

This was a nice evening, the only downside was tickets for the whole week, and even for this one event was a lot, although I got a heavy discount being a Christian volunteer here.