1988: First Messianic Jewish Conference in Jerusalem in 1900 Years
One of the first pioneer Messianic Jewish musical groups since Israel’s modern rebirth: Israel’s Hope with Rene Bloch, Paul Wilbur and Marc Chopinsky
By Shira Sorko-Ram
Exactly forty years after David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence, a group of Messianic Jewish pioneers organized a conference in Jerusalem over the Shavuot (Pentecost holiday) weekend of May 20-22, 1988.
The 40th anniversary of Israel’s independence had been celebrated a week earlier, and it seemed like this was certainly a historic moment to celebrate God’s incredible power and faithfulness to recreate the State of Israel after 1900 years.
Ari and I put our heads together with Sid Roth, now host of It’s Supernatural, and he organized a tour for 476 Messianic Jews and Christians who loved Israel. It would turn out to be the largest tour group in all Israel at that time. The first Intifada had begun five months earlier and was now in full fury. The violence was so great that even most Jewish tourists stayed away from the country—even though it was Israel’s 40th birthday!
In those days we did not yet have Internet. So, our Maoz staff scoured the country for every Messianic Jew and Christian living in Israel that we could think of, inviting them to the conference.
WHERE’S THE HOTEL?
Meanwhile, we were searching for a suitable hotel that could accommodate up to 1000 people. We went from hotel to hotel, but we came up against an incredible wall. Not a single hotel was interested in a conference of Messianic Jews. Besides, they told us, it was against the law for any hotel in Israel to use electrical equipment—like microphones and loudspeakers—on Biblical holidays. And certainly, there could be no singing (worship) with musical instruments.
May 20 was Erev Shabbat (the evening of the Sabbath, as holidays begin the evening before), May 21 was the Sabbath, and May 22 was the Biblical holiday of Shavuot. There would be no conference at any hotel. We prayed.
Someone suggested the Diplomat Hotel in the most eastern section of Jerusalem. We talked to the owner of the hotel, and he told us, “You can have all the music you want! All the speakers you want! You can do whatever you want! I don’t care what the authorities say!”
We were shocked! We soon learned that the hotel had filed for bankruptcy, and therefore the owner had enough lawsuits on his hands that, as he said, he couldn’t care less what anyone did. What’s more, the hotel had 500 rooms!
WE ACTUALLY TURNED PEOPLE AWAY!
On May 20, the hotel was full. Sadly, we had to turn some away who arrived at the last moment. And then we received news that a group of 50 Hondurans had arrived to take part in our conference! We couldn’t believe our eyes! But they said they felt they were to come and join us in this first International Messianic Jewish Conference in 1900 years!
We found a boutique hotel called the Eden Hotel, just down the street, and, if memory serves, the Hondurans were some of the overflow tourists we booked into the Eden Hotel.
Among the 472 people on Sid Roth’s tour was a group of leaders who came from the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, and yet another group from the Union of Messianic Congregations. At that time, there was quite a divide between these two largest Messianic organizations in the U.S., but we in Israel were close friends with both groups. So we were overjoyed when leaders from both organizations decided to attend.
We had an amazing variety of speakers from both the United States and Israel. Sid Roth, who is one of the most incredible witnesses to every person he meets wherever he is, inspired us with a spirit of boldness to witness to our lost people.
THE NIGHT I REMEMBER
What stands out in my mind most of all was Saturday night—the beginning of Shavuot—when Dr. Michael Brown preached a passionate message about this being the time for revival. He said that as the fire of God’s Spirit fell on the Jewish people on Pentecost in Acts 2, now again it is time for another historic Pentecost—exactly forty years after the physical rebirth of Israel.
We all began to pray, really crying out to God, many praying in tongues. Then one local leader stood up and began to shout about tongues being no longer for this age, and left with a number of others. A hush came over the people, and then an oppressive atmosphere. Obviously, we were not in unity.
But again, we began to pray—hour after hour—until 3:30 in the morning! Hundreds of us. Clearly, a powerful anointing fell on those who stayed and were pushing through in the Spirit. But, to be truthful, there was not any notable physical sign that night. Nevertheless, we who stayed felt we had somehow touched heaven. Seriously.
After the conference, one brother who basically tended to be critical—especially when it came to gifts of the Spirit—said to me, “You know what the best thing about this conference was?” I said, “What?” He said, “That it happened.”
In truth, I would agree that the fact it actually happened is a miracle. And perhaps most meaningful to the future of the Messianic Jewish movement was that it was a meeting place for the start of reconciliation between some important groups and individuals, and ultimately, organizations.
It is also true many observed a change in the openness to the Good News in Israel, as Sid Roth’s tour group witnessed wherever they went. And for months after the conference, there were people receiving salvation in every single service of our own congregation in our town of Ramat HaSharon. I remember a large U.S. ministry sent someone to our congregation to see if what we were saying was actually true! And they sent back word—it was true. Israelis were coming to faith in every service.
“Shavuot 88” conference with 1200 attendees. Dr. Michael Brown speaks on the Holy Spirit.
But I must admit, I haven’t thought about that conference in a long time. A lot has happened in these thirty years. Now there is a whole new generation of strong, talented and committed young Israeli believers. So why write about this now? I am so glad you asked!
In May of this year, all of Israel’s media concentrated on the new U.S. Embassy that was going to be moved to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, the 70th year of Israel’s independence. As the TV news covered the story about a small attractive building that would become a temporary Jerusalem embassy, the reporter went on to say that the U.S. administration had purchased a couple of buildings nearby for added space. The camera scanned over to a large building a few hundred feet away. It was the old Diplomat Hotel that the U.S. had purchased! We were more than stunned!
The explanation was that they would use that building—for now—as an extension of the embassy. They are considering in the future tearing down the Diplomat Hotel and building a large modern structure in its place. (Incidentally, the Diplomat Hotel was built exactly on the 1949 Armistice line, and the Palestinians are saying that the land belongs to them, even though Israel has been using it since 1949. They are being ignored.)
But that’s not all!!
THE EDEN HOTEL
The Israeli reporters continued by saying that the U.S. had purchased a little boutique hotel by the name of the Eden Hotel, down the street. If my memory serves me, we put the overflow crowd including some of the Hondurans in that hotel! And guess who is the third country which is moving their embassy to Jerusalem—Honduras!
Could our prayers have had anything to do with God’s purposes to restore the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the United States? Could God have placed the Hondurans in that hotel? Just so you know, Hondurans know how to pray! I, for one, believe God orchestrated that entire conference—in spite of all the weaknesses and tiny size of the Messianic movement in 1988.
One more observation: Is this a political statement I am making? Absolutely not. God Himself promised the land of Israel to His Jewish people—hundreds of times. He promised Jerusalem would be the city where the King of the Jews dwells when He returns to earth. Over 200 times, God calls Himself the God of Israel. Throughout the Bible it is He who says that in the last days He would bring his people back to the Land of Israel and to the God of Israel.
Seventy years ago on May 14, President Harry Truman recognized Israel as the Jewish state. This year on May 14, President Donald Truman recognized Jerusalem as the capital of this Jewish state. It’s in the Bible!
Left: Welcome banner at entrance of Diplomat Hotel. Right: Diplomat hotel today, purchased by President Trump’s administration as part of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.