Until a couple of years ago, Israel had not really registered for us as Christians. Of course we knew that it was the birth place of Jesus and that most of the biblical accounts happened there. But other than having a desire to see it so that we could relate to it better when reading our bibles, we did not have much interest.
As we started looking at the biblical feasts and gaining a better understanding of the old testament scriptures and their relevance today, our faith started to come alive and we spent so much more time really studying God’s word, not just casually reading it. The Jesus we say is our Lord and King was and is a Jewish man, and maybe we needed to gain some understanding of Judaism to better understand the words of our Messiah. For example, His Hebrew name is Yeshua, and it means salvation.
Our eyes started seeing things in God’s word that we had never seen before, our brains processing things we had not thought about, and our hearts being turned towards a place that had not had our attention. I believe it is hard to open you bible and not find a reference somewhere on those pages to Israel. Our God is the God of Israel. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). God promised to give this land to Abraham and his descendants – forever. He saved his chosen people (Israel) out of Egypt, trained and instructed them with the purpose of going and conquering the land that was to become Israel and to be a light unto the nations. The bible says that Israel is the Apple of God’s eye. And I could go on.
The punishment suffered by the Northern ten tribes for turning their back on the covenant they made with God, worshipping idols and following after pagan practices was dispersion and removal from that land. The same thing happened to the Jews (made up of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah) some years later. But God said through the prophets that he will return them to their land, never to be uprooted again, andthat they shall yet plants vines on the mountains of Samaria. Read Isaiah chapter 61, Jeremiah chapters 30 to 33, Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 & Amos 9:11-15.
Most of the very familiar sayings of Yeshua/Jesus, when he quotes the Old Testament, when read in their original context, have something to do with Israel. He is referred to as the Son of David, who will rule and reign from Jerusalem.
It baffles my mind how we did not see the importance of this place in God’s eyes, and how significant it is. Also the prophesied return of the Jewish people and the physical restoration of The Land.
So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Eze 36:35
So, having our eyes opened to this, we knew we had to go and see what was really happening there. We had heard about HaYovel and were excited not just about what they were doing and how God has used them, but also by their vision for what family and community should look like as followers of Messiah. Everything seemed to resonate with us and the direction God had been leading us in with our own family. The plan was to save up and go to the harvest as a family, but Tess and I felt that I really should go to the pruning, a men only trip in late winter. I can honestly say that this trip was life changing and the start of a new phase in our walk with our Messiah and in us finding a purpose for our family.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
If you have never heard of HaYovel I encourage you to start following them and learning the truth about Israel and all that God is doing there. HaYovel, which means ‘the jubilee’ in Hebrew, started off with one family who had a real vision and heart to serve. They went to Israel and got connected with a Jewish man who had planted vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:5. Nir Levi, who is a first generation farmer, has a love for the land and God’s word, and had a lack of labor to bring in the harvest. The Wallers, being a farming family from Tennessee thought “we can do that”, so they went to help. Then the next year some friends joined them, and them some more, and then other people wanted to help, and HaYovel was birthed out of a desire to serve and bless the Jewish people. This was not all plain sailing as they were often met with great suspicion and even at times with hostility, by some Jewish people. This is not hard to understand when you start to look at all that has been done to the Jewish people throughout history, much of which was done in the name of Christianity. And also the attitude many Christians have toward them, that they are going to hell for killing Jesus unless they convert to Christianity. Maybe you don’t think that way, but I have learned that history and experience has exposed them to a Christianty that I don’t really relate to. So not only are HaYovel helping with the physical restoration and healing of The Land, but also the restoration and healing of a two thousand year old wound. Building friendships, serving God’s people and his land in love, not with a motive to convert or proselytize, but to bless and to serve.
It was only after they began this work that they started to see scriptures speaking of this very thing that they were doing. Isaiah 61:5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. People often say “we’re just picking grapes”, but it is so much more than that.
As well as the grape harvest there are sometimes olives to harvest, and on occasion tangerines and pomegranates. But they have been able to assist people with many other need also such as planting vineyards, helping build chicken houses and aquaponics systems. Even assisting in the dismantling of a Jewish families farm when bulldozers turned up to evict them, a very sad story.
There is the annual pruning of the vines. This is something I have been wanting to write a dedicated blog about and hope to do so at some point although it is hard for me to put it into words. But, standing on the Mount of Blessing, pruning vines whilst meditating on Matthew 15:1-8 will be something that stays with me always. There seemed to be so many parallels between that physical pruning process and the pruning God wants to do in our loves so that we can bear the fruit that he wants.
HaYovel has now started a new area and scale of restoration – forestry. The first project happened this October/November, after the grape harvest was completed we planted 2,279 trees. If/when you see the terrain and the level of care taken to ensure these trees have the best chance of thriving you will realize what a massive task this was. But what a blessing to be a part of. As I write this we have received a message saying that there has been vandalism, carried out by Arabs, of some of the trees planted. There is funding in place and it was intended that four thousand trees would be planted, but the nursery supplying the trees did not manage to raise them all. But this was another example of God having all things in hand. We just had time to get these 2,279 trees planted before the volunteers had to return home. Had all 4,000 been delivered they might not have made it into the ground.
Hayovel has been expanding with more families getting on-board, and the original families expanding rapidly. There is a great demand on existing facilities and a need for new. The stories told of how they managed to operate with incredibly limited accommodation and facilities in incredibly challenging conditions is testament to their dedication, faithfulness, endurance and ingenuity.
For those of you who don’t know me, my current trade is electrical contracting, but I am also a mechanical engineer, a fairly competent wood worker and handyman, and can turn my hand to most things. My primary role will be maintenance and housing, but I will be out in the fields when time allows. I am so thankful that we have been given this opportunity to invest our time and energies in this amazing work. I think that with our previous, more limited understanding of God’s prophetic fulfillment, we believed that God would just make everything happen whilst man watched from the sidelines, simply sharing the message of salvation. But the bible shows us that without man to perform the tasks God gives them not much happens. Noah had to build an ark. The Israelites had to walk out of Egypt, build a tabernacle and conquer the Promised Land. Look at the amount of work that went into building the temple. We must do our part.
I know that all at HaYovel will say, and we too have started to experience this, that the blessings come back to them also. The Jewish people have faithfully and meticulously preserved the word of God, the Old Testament, the only bible our savior and the first disciples had. They have studied it for thousands of years and continue to pass on much of this wisdom and learning to future generations. They have such a wealth of knowledge to share and can help us to understand the words of Yeshua and the apostles so much better. We are very far removed from the world that Yeshua lived in, but they help us connect to that world. It is our prayer and hope that we can be a connection for you too. We can be your personal point of connection and blessing to Eretz Yisrael. That we can send you regular news and updates direct from the Biblical Heartland and keeping you in touch with all that God is doing there. We have experienced that generally people’s opinions of the Jewish/Arab situation is so far removed from the truth because of what they have seen in the media. We want to be able to share the truth with you and be your eyes and ears.