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      Op-Ed: The Unkosher Feast

      Published: Friday, September 21, 2007 11:39 AM
      Religious pilgrimage and not a "salute to Israel."


      I believe Michael Freund and various journalists covering the Chief Rabbinate's decision to proscribe Jewish participation in this year's Feast of the Tabernacles missed some vital points.
      It is essential to understand the very nature of The Feast.

      Michael wrote a very nice and thoughtful article about a parade. However, he neglected to review the ruling, which, in addition to the parade, applies to all events associated with the week-long Christian pilgrimage to take place in the Binyanei HaUmah Jerusalem Convention Center.

      Before passing judgment on this edict, it is essential to understand the very nature of The Feast. It is, first and foremost, a religious pilgrimage and not a "salute to Israel" event.

      The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) web site describes The Feast as an event "combining powerful preaching and an anointed program of music and dance... a week of teaching, worship and ministry that begins in the desert of En Gedi and spills over onto the streets of Jerusalem with the annual Succot pilgrim march."

      To be a worker at The Feast, one must be "at least 18 years of age, have a full personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and realize that this is a ministry unto the Lord, and as such, be willing to accept the spiritual cover and practical leadership of the International Christian Embassy and its designated Feast leaders during the season of your service."

      Those are ICEJ restrictions, not the Chief Rabbinate's.

      This year's Feast is taking on a definite and overtly Messianic Jewish flavor, and it doesn't take a rabbi to tell you that the offering is treif.

      Outside of scheduled entertainer Dudu Fisher, the majority of the featured speakers and performers have openly called for "a Messianic Jewish restoration" (for Jews to embrace Jesus), and in some cases are themselves Messianic Jews.

      David Pawson - one of the main speakers - is on record stating: "We cannot help but be missionaries and I have discovered that some Jews despise us if we pretend not to be!"
      This year's Feast is taking on a definite and overtly Messianic Jewish flavor.

      Featured speakers Jack Hayford and Robert Stearns came out of the closet this year and sponsored major conventions that championed the cause of Messianic Judaism.

      Groups not necessarily affiliated with ICEJ will make their presence felt at The Feast, as well as running their own separate pseudo-Succot celebrations featuring Messianic Jewish, Jerusalem-resident missionaries Elhanan Ben-Avraham, Arieh Bar David, Lance Lambert and Barry and Batya Segal, along with Diaspora Messianic Jewish leaders David Herzog and Daniel Juster.

      This is certainly not the first year that the nature of The Feast has raised eyebrows. Back in October 2004, Pat Robertson caused something of an imbroglio and Judy Lash Balint recorded the scene for posterity. Below is an excerpt from her article, which appeared in the Jewish Forward:

      The American evangelist turned the auditorium into a church, as he exhorted the throng to get down on their knees in prayer, urging them to, "Pray for Jesus to come back again, so the rule of Jesus Christ may descend."

      The imagery projected on the huge screen above the stage at this point during the gathering was a little jarring. A man draped in a tallis (prayer shawl) kneeling in front of a white-draped throne. A camera... captured a banner floating over the stage with the word Mashiach (Messiah) in Hebrew over a picture of a robed man on a white horse.

      During his 40-minute speech, Robertson... touched on the theology that makes some Jews squirm. Jews need to begin to cry out for their Messiah, he said. "I've met wonderful Jews... here in Jerusalem, who are all saying 'Yes, Jesus you are our Messiah,'" Robertson asserted as he outlined four things that need to happen "before Jesus comes back."

      Hundreds of Israeli Messianic Jews took part in the ICEJ Feast this year. Official statistics noted that more than 1,000 participants in this year's event are Israelis, some Christians, but many Hebrew speakers with Jewish names on their name-tags.

      It should be noted that during the same year, in February 2004, then-Tourism Minister MK Benny Elon had honored Pat Robertson by presenting him with a special Zionist award that praised him for having "saved Israel's tourism from bankruptcy." That same month, the Rabbi MK met with Christian missionaries and implored them to "go from mosque to mosque and bring the Muslims into the light."
      I'm not as nice as Michael Freund.

      It is more than ironic that the same Benny Elon now claims, with regard to the Rabbinate's ruling, that, "certain rabbis have been misled, and are now causing a dangerous misunderstanding in Israel's relations with countries around the world."

      Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, feels emboldened enough to tell us - the Jewish people in the Jewish State - that it's "a violation of Biblical edicts to reject the mass influx of Christian visitors during the holiday." He must have skipped over the part where the Rabbinate's rabbis "bless the tourists who will arrive in our Holy Land for the upcoming holidays, among them also those of different religions."

      I'm not as well versed in Zacharia, G-d's plan, and eschatology as Reverend Hedding; and I'm not as nice as Michael Freund. But I can tell you that my G-d, my prophets and my sages would never sanction Jewish participation in a Jesus Festival - no matter what time of year it is.