“The preservation of Israel and the preservation of the Nazarene are one phenomenon.”
This line mulled over in my head as I sat in the back seat of our big blue van. The van twisted, turned, and trudged through the hillside as we made our way toward the heartland of Israel.
I had just finished reading Sholem Asch’s book One Destiny in which he addresses the unique relationship between Judaism and Christianity, centered on the Messianic hope present in both religions. I could not help but connect the preservation of this beautiful land out my window to the people of Israel.
The road directed our path through the many Arab and Israeli villages that live in constant tension. Sadly, most of the world does not see the beautiful surrounding area. Judea and Samaria have been in the news a lot lately as our people have been under threat of stabbing attacks from terrorists. While the threat is real, there is no place on earth that brings more peace to your soul than the land God promised and gave to his people.
The hills rolled and turned with the rock that lay beneath them. Fresh signs of spring sprout from the earth proclaiming their determination to flourish no matter the surrounding threats. The prophets spoke of the coming Messianic Era as a time of great rejuvenation for the land when the desert would bloom. Seeing the desert blossoming I could not help but wonder if the coming kingdom of Messiah Yeshua was near.
Our van pulled onto a side road in a valley with long rows of grapevines stretched out on the countryside; it was the perfect place for our filming crew to shoot a segment of our new HaYesod program. On the adjacent hilltop rests a small community, a place well known in history for housing the Tabernacle. Above one of the homes an Israeli flag whips in the wind to proudly proclaim Israeli presence on this controversial piece of earth.
As we jumped out of the van to set up our filming equipment we were met by twenty young men dressed in cowboy boots and hats—all holding vine trimmers. After greeting us and showing us around the two vineyards Joshua Waller, Director of Operations for HaYovel Ministries explained to us the surrounding villages. “Right over there” Joshua pointed to yet another hill nearby, “You can see where some hilltop youth tried to claim a hill and started settling, but the army came and took down their tents,” he said as we walked in the valley where two vineyards lay ready for pruning.
Joshua began instructing the nearly twenty volunteers who all had just recently arrived in Israel to come and prune the vines of Judea and Samaria. Armed with vine trimmers and cowboy hats the young men happily made their way to their assigned vines.
“Technically, HaYovel and the Waller family are one entity. Our family vision is what birthed the work of HaYovel today,” stated Sherri Waller (in a Skype interview), co-founder of HaYovel Ministries with her husband Tommy Waller. With eleven children and fourteen grandchildren the Waller family first came to Israel in 2004. “You should have seen us! All eleven children flying internationally,” Sherri said, laughing to herself.
“Coming to Israel that first time was like watching the Bible come to life,” said Joshua, one of the seven Waller boys in the family.
“After that first trip we were just hooked and completely in love with Israel. We rented a small top floor apartment in Ariel, and coming from the country life in America and with thirteen people in one small space, we couldn’t wait to get outside,” Sherri added, as she explained that throughout their time in Ariel and Har Bracha they began to see a need to help Israeli farmers harvest their vineyards.
“It was just so clear to us the importance of God’s land,” Sherri stated.
Today HaYovel is one of the largest humanitarian organizations serving over thirteen vineyards in Judea and Samaria. “This year alone we expect over five hundred volunteers to come from twenty-seven different countries,” said Joshua.
HaYovel’s busiest season is “harvest season,” usually occurring in late August when the grapes are ripe for gathering. Thirty-five staff members help transport volunteers from the airport to the vineyards, cook and prepare meals for all five hundred workers, and organize the massive operation to take place in an effective manner.
While the region of Judea and Samaria is typically filled with controversy, the Waller family believes that the heartland of Israel should not be neglected. “I would simply encourage anyone who has a problem with the area in which we work to come out here and see the land for themselves. The Bible talks about this land and we’ve come to understand that this is truly the heartland of Israel,” Joshua mused.
HaYovel is responsible for harvesting over four hundred tons of grapes annually. They work closely with local vineyards such as Psagot Wines, Tura Winery, Har Bracha Winery, and others in the area. “With four hundred tons of grapes turning into 260,000 bottles of wine, that’s over 5.2 million dollars into Israel's economy,” stated Joshua. “People come from all over, use their vacation time and their own expenses to come and help during the harvest. These people love God and they love his land….that’s why they come.”
“I’ve known the Wallers for over seven years and every year I am completely shocked by their love for Israel and their will to help in whatever way they can. You would never believe the amount of love these people have for Israel and the Jewish people,” stated Yaacov Berg, owner of Psagot Winery.
“We try to promote healthy advocacy for Israel. While our groups are in the land we educate them on Israel. We bring in several speakers from around the area to discuss different topics and we teach them how to defend and advocate for Israel in their home countries,” Joshua explained.
I could not help but see a glimpse of the coming Messianic Kingdom promised to us by the prophets and our Master Yeshua as I stood there watching the nations come from all over the world to tend to the heartland of our beloved country. I felt as if Isaiah’s vision of the Messianic Era was being fulfilled before my eyes:
Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers. (Isaiah 61:5)
I could not escape from the feeling that I was standing in the place of prophetic fulfillment of the Messianic Era as I heard these words read from the new HaYesod program:
Israel is a land of bounty, flowing with milk and honey. It’s the land of the kingdom of heaven. All the prophecies say that, in the kingdom, this land will be restored and filled with life. The Messiah will be here and rule from here for 1000 years. In that day there will be enormous agricultural bounty. The Prophets say the desert will bloom, and the vineyards will drip with sweet wine and the hills will be covered with grain.
The work of HaYovel Ministry is truly helping to bring the kingdom; their testimony to the Jewish people and their love of Israel is one that sees no bounds and causes hearts to be stirred. HaYovel not only supports the land itself but also educates on Israel advocacy. Israel needs all the help it can get. The Waller family is on the cutting edge of healing the image of the nations as Israelis are touched by their miraculous work.
Joshua continued, “It’s our dream to continue building the farms and vineyards in the Shromon, to be a leading voice for support and defense of Israel abroad and to see all nations coming from around the world to help Israel…one of our favorite sayings is: Israel, you’re not alone. My hope is that the people of Israel will see that through our work here.”
As we made our way back home and the hills of Judea and Samaria grew further away I was inspired by the promise of the Messianic Kingdom and how, even though it is not here in full, ministries such as HaYovel give us a glimpse of the Messianic Era, when God will gather all Israel and restore her land:
He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12)
To learn more about HaYovel go to their website: http://www.hayovel.com/