JERUSALEM (Christian Examiner) – During the Feast of Booths, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) will host a conference for Christians from around the world, but Israel's leading rabbis believe the event is designed to convert Jews to Christianity. That makes the event, they say, spiritually dangerous for the Jewish State.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz they regard the members of ICEJ as a "friends of Israel," but they find the missionary impulse of the movement disturbing.
That is due more to history, likely, than the current climate in Jerusalem. The Ashkenzai are comprised of the ancestors of Jews who settled in central Europe as part of the diaspora. Many settled in Germany and Poland and were very nearly wiped out during the Holocaust.
Sephardic Jews are the descendants of Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula (where modern Spain is) and who suffered under both Muslim invasions and the Inquisition.
"We have learned that missionary elements [working on behalf] of the Christian embassy in Jerusalem are organizing a large conference during the Sukkot holiday. Some of this organization's goals are to convert Jews [to Christianity]," a statement signed by Lau and Yosef read.
"Those same elements see as their mission converting the entire world to Christianity, especially the Jewish people."
The rabbis said the threat posed by the conference was a "grave."
"This is a grave matter that runs contrary to the foundations of our beliefs, and therefore it must be denunciated and the public must be warned," the rabbis said.
According to Haaretz, during last year's Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday, Lau and Yosef signed a letter condemning an interfaith prayer vigil organized by the ICEJ and asked police to call off the event. That events was held near the Temple Mount.
This year's event, according to ICEJ, celebrates God's past provision for Israel (while in the wilderness) and also looks ahead "to the promised Messianic age when all nations will follow Jerusalem and worship the Lord."
"The prophet Zechariah foretells of a time when all nations will ascend to Jerusalem from year to year to 'worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles' (14:16). Thus we keep Sukkot now because of that future prophetic purpose hidden in this unique festival which will soon be revealed – and it has to do with the second coming of the Lord," ICEJ's website states.
The Christian group also said the entire world will come to Jerusalem annually once Jesus Christ returns and establishes his millennial Kingdom.
"For a thousand years, we will look back on the day of his appearing to take up the throne of David in Jerusalem and to judge the world in righteousness and peace," the website says. "At that time all nations will be required to join in this yearly gathering, but for now it is voluntary. Yet when Christians flock to Jerusalem now to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, it serves as a powerful statement of faith that we believe that day is coming when the earth will finally be at rest in Messiah, the King of Israel."