Against all odds and despite coronavirus health restrictions, Christian volunteers came to Samaria to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy by harvesting grapes in the Shomron (Samaria).
For fifteen years, HaYovel has been bringing international volunteers to help the small farmers of Judea and Samaria harvest their grapes. Through the years, more than 3,000 Christian volunteers from 30 countries have helped more than ten farmers harvest 3,400 tons of grapes but, by all considerations, HaYovel’s sixteenth grape harvest in Samaria should not have happened. Some national borders were closed and most had travel restrictions that usually included lengthy quarantines. But their devotion to Israel and prophecy knows no bounds. During the war with Gaza and Operation Protective Edge, HaYovel was in the vineyards. During the years of knife attacks, car-rammings, and stone throwings, HaYovel continued bringing volunteers. Through it all, this evangelical organization has stayed committed to the prophecy by been picking grapes in the biblical heartland.
But due to Israeli Health Ministry travel restrictions, Israel’s borders were closed to non-citizens. This was a huge blow to the normally vibrant and vital tourist industry but for the farmers in Samaria, it meant that with only ten volunteers (most with the last name of Waller), 400 tons of grapes were in danger of rotting on the vines.
The group sent out requests for prayer and took practical steps but their efforts were hampered by half of their staff being stuck in the US. They contacted Knesset members but were met with closed doors. Finally, On August 9th, several senior members of Israel’s government decided to allow HaYovel to bring 50 volunteers into the country. But the organization had 12 hours to submit a list of volunteers who had committed to a three-month trip which included an initial two week period of quarantine. And they had to leave for Israel in seven days. Hayovel began to make calls and their calls were answered with four hours to spare. One hour later, they had the approval of the Israeli government. On September 1st, the first group of volunteers exited quarantine and the next day hit the vineyards, harvesting more than 20 tons of grapes by the day’s end.
Zachary Waller, Executive Director of HaYovel, was stunned at the response.
“We expected a disaster but within two weeks we got back to normal,” Waller told Israel365 News. “We want to enable the nations to take their role in the redemption of Israel.
He noted that through this entirely unanticipated series of events, a total of exactly 70 staff and volunteers, representing the Biblical 70 nations, are working the vineyards.
Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I Hashem have builded the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I Hashem have spoken it and I will do it. Ezekiel 36:36
Some of the volunteers are motivated by the prophecy that in the end-of-days, the vineyards in Israel will be tended by foreigners from outside of Israel.
Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks, Aliens shall be your plowmen and vine-trimmers; Isaiah 61:5
Even the delay was a blessing as the harvest is three weeks later than normal, with the majority of the grapes ripening just in time for HaYovel’s volunteers to hit the fields.
Waller seemed undaunted by the heatwave that hit Israel and expects their small group will harvest approximately 500 tons of grapes this year, saving the year’s work for ten Jewish farmers in the Biblical heartland.
Most of the volunteers were from the US but others came from Canada and Germany. Other volunteers from Australia were unable to leave their country.
HaYovel’s program usually includes tours around Israel but this aspect had to be curtailed due to the pandemic.
ABOUT THIS REMARKABLE GROUP
HaYovel (“The Jubilee”) is an important influence in an age when the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement and anti-Israel restrictions put in place by the United Nations and the European Union threaten the livelihood of Israeli farmers.
The organization is a family effort led by Tommy and Sherri Waller, devout Christian Zionists committed to helping bring Biblical prophecy to life in Israel. On a visit to Israel in 2004f, they saw the physical manifestation of the words of Jeremiah in the replanting of ancient farmlands.
Again shalt thou plant vineyards upon the mountains of Shomron; the planters shall plant, and shall have the use thereof. Jeremiah 31:4
But when Tommy Waller came up with a plan to bring Christian volunteers to work on Jewish farms, he found that Jews were reluctant to accept. After a millennium of difficult relations in which Jewish-Christian relations were dominated by Jewish persecution and Christian proselytizing, many Jews suspected Waller’s motives.
To overcome the obstacle, the Wallers met with Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the religious leader of the community where HaYovel does its work. Known as Har Bracha (“Mountain of Blessings) on Mount Gerizim, the site was chosen by Tommy, who learned on a 2004 visit that the Bible identifies the mountain as the source of the blessings that Israel received before entering the Land of Israel.
And it shall come to pass, when Hashem thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt set the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal. Deuteronomy 11:29
Waller, with agricultural roots in his native Tennessee, realized the vines he was seeing were the physical manifestation of the prophecy.
Rabbi Melamed interviewed Tommy at length before giving HaYovel legal approval in a Halachic (Torah law) ruling titled ‘Honor and Love for the Lovers of Israel’. In his decision, the rabbi noted that the Christians were not seeking to “change our faith” and labelled them “righteous among the nations.” The rabbi concluded by saying that attempts to missionize Jews in Israel should be fought, but Christians who were not trying to influence our Jewish faith should be “respected and loved”.