Israeli Messianic believers celebrate Shavuot together for first time in 3 years

Shavuot picnic at Yad HaShmona (Photo: Kehila News Israel)

Hundreds of Messianic believers in Yeshua gathered from all over Israel on Sunday to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) at the Yad HaShmona communal village, located in the picturesque hills surrounding Jerusalem.

The annual event is organized by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI) and continues to be the largest gathering of local believers in Israel since it began in 1988. This year’s gathering was the first one since the spring of 2019 due to the COVID pandemic and government restrictions which prevented larger gatherings of 50 or more people.

I arrived with my family a bit before the 10 a.m. start time in order to a good spot for our picnic blanket on the grass in front of the stage, which had a Bible verse from Acts 2:1 printed in large Hebrew letters: “When the day of Shavuot came, they were all together in one place.”

My teenage kids met up with friends from other congregations that they hadn’t seen in a  while, while my younger son took off his shoes and jumped onto one of the colorful inflatable castles that were available for children to enjoy.

At the conference, there was an area for attendees to purchase books printed by The Bible Society in IsraelHaGefen PublishingCaspari Center, and of course, the event coordinators at MJAI.

Photo: Kehila News Israel

A representative of the MJAI welcomed the group with an inspiring introduction.

“On this day of Shavuot, in Jerusalem, the wonderful gospel of Yeshua the Messiah went out to all the people who were in Jerusalem at the time, each one in his own language, and the first disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “They started to fulfill the task Yeshua had given them before He went to heaven, and that’s the same task we have today. We are meeting here, in one heart, under one Lord. We are all sinners who are saved by the Lord’s grace. And that’s enough to unify us. Everything is by grace. So we are asking God’s spirit to bless our gathering, that everything will be for His glory, and that we will be strengthened and encouraged to fulfill God’s calling on our lives.”

He also took a moment to honor Hanan Lukatz, the director of the MJAI, who originally initiated the Shavuot conference back in the early 90s. Lukatz went to be with the Lord just a few months ago.

“It is the first time without Hanan,” the MJAI representative continued. “For many of us, he was the man behind these gatherings, but we rejoice knowing that he is with the Lord, and we thank the Lord for this inheritance he left us and for what he did for the Body of the Messiah here in Israel.”

The annual Shavuot picnic also provides a platform for Messianic worship teams from various congregations around Israel to lead times of praise and worship throughout the day. Artists from all over the country make it an unforgettable experience.

Several Messianic musicians, including Antony and Irene from the southern city of Beer Sheva, performed during the picnic.

Photo: Kehila News Israel

One group from a church in South Korea sang a Hebrew song in the original language, and their native tongue.

We also enjoyed amazing worship from an Ethiopian congregation with Hebrew songs composed with an African style and flavor.

At every Shavuot conference at Yad HaShmona, there is a blessing for all the children born during the past year. Because this was the first conference since 2019, they brought forward children born over the past three years, as well as all the pregnant women. Elders from different congregations laid hands on the group and blessed them.

A highlight for me is the great fellowship. I had the opportunity to catch up with old friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, and was also introduced to people I’ve only heard of.

All in all, it was an amazing day, well organized and executed, and I’d like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to both MJAI and to Yad HaShmona for their hospitality and the hard work and logistics that goes into making this such a great experience for us all.

And while we are sad that Hanan Lukatz is no longer with us, we are most glad to see that his wonderful legacy continues on.

The one-day Shavuot conference and fellowship picnic has become a vital Israeli tradition for believers in Yeshua. This year, several groups of visitors from the nations, our brothers and sisters in faith, also joined the celebration. We invite you to join us next year!

Shavuot is a special holiday as it commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and it is also the day God poured out His spirit in Acts Chapter 2, which is known to Christians as the day Pentecost (the Greek name for Shavuot). It is also one of the three major festivals where the children of Israel were commanded to go up to Jerusalem, the other two being Passover and Sukkot.

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. (Deut. 16:9-10)