Over the past ten years, a group of Christian supporters of Israel has been participating in a unique volunteer program focused on providing free labor to Jewish farmers in Judea and Samaria. Over this time, they have been a huge help in the expansion of Jewish-owned vineyards in the region and have contributed greatly to their success.
In spite of the tremendous amount of work they offer at no expense to the local community, they ask nothing in return. They put very little effort into public relations in the Israeli Jewish communities. They do not demand honor and recognition. They only ask to be allowed to contribute to work they believe is great – the return of the Jewish people to the heartland of Israel, and helping the land prosper again.
Many of these volunteers are homeschoolers, and they take part in this experience as families, as part of their educational process. These parents wish to strongly impart to their children the legacy of seeing and doing. They bring their children to see with their own eyes that the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has kept his promises to the fathers and brought his people out of exile and back to the land of Israel.
This group is called “HaYovel,” and it is operated by a family from Tennessee, USA, named Waller. Their administration is very respectful toward the Jewish people and our heritage. They consult with leading rabbis, who give oversight and direction for their program, in order to be very careful to stay within the limits of Torah, as it applies to them.
Each year, they bring hundreds of volunteers to work in Judea and Samaria. Each applicant goes through a thorough background check and signs his or her agreement to the rules of the program, which includes a non-proselytizing clause. Over the course of ten years, this agreement has been respected.
The members of the volunteer group keep to themselves and are active in their own programming, which includes lectures from local rabbis and other Jewish speakers on Zionism, the seven laws of Noah, and the history and geography of the land. The Christian volunteers do not take part in social events in the Jewish communities, and have no substantial interaction with Jewish residents, aside from the Jewish teachers who give classes.
Although the jobs that they are filling are seasonal – picking grapes and pruning vines in season for each farm every year, their work for the farmers in Judea and Samaria have helped those farms grow into large businesses and local tourist attractions. This has resulted in more regular, year-round work places for Jewish residents. This is a great boost for the local economy, and again, helps Jewish families secure their livelihoods here, without needing to travel into the city centers to find work.
On top of all of that, it seems to me that what these friends of Israel do when they go home offers an even greater contribution to Israel and Zionism. They take their personal positive experiences of working the land on Jewish farms in Judea and Samaria, and they share their enthusiasm with others. A few weeks spent working the land and observing Jewish life here gives them tools to become the best Israel advocates there could be.
While so many Jewish and non Jewish groups are bashing Israel and declaring BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) on Israel because of Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank, this group is doing the exact opposite. They are touring churches around the world, sharing their support for Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria, while sharing their own personal experience of being here and seeing the positive aspects for themselves.
It is sad that a handful of Jewish people have undertaken a crusade to harass these sincere friends of Israel. They shamelessly spread lies about the supposed evil actions and intents of this group, claiming that they are missionaries, here to hunt Jewish souls. In fact, to date, this volunteer program has been here for ten years with zero missionary incidents.
Awareness of potential threats to the integrity of the Jewish community is a good thing, but taking this fear to extremes at the cost of being offensive to real friends is a big mistake. The Waller family and their HaYovel group deserve respect and appreciation from the Jewish community. Standing with Israel is something that should be encouraged, not turned away. G-d himself said to our father Abraham that he would bless those who bless Israel. We, too, should acknowledge this blessing and stand with those who stand with Israel.
this article was written by David Ha’Ivri and was originally published by Israel National News on August 31, 2014