Ambassadors of harvest: Evangelicals help Jewish farmers in Israel

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Christian volunteers harvesting grapes (Photo: HaYovel)

Pro-Israel Evangelicals are always searching for projects they can be actively involved in to bless Israel’s spiritual harvest whether practically, financially, prayerfully or by visiting the Land.

Then there are those who invest their time, money and efforts into the physical harvest by helping Israeli farmers in their vineyards.

Vineyards and Olive Harvest – not just a new “trend”

For more than a decade, American and Canadian Evangelicals, either as groups or individuals, have been coming to Israel specifically to help Israeli farmers harvest their crops, staying even for as long as six months at at time.

“The Bible talks about the vineyards coming back to the land and the Jewish people living here in the land, and we say, ‘Hey, let’s go help ’em, let’s be a part of it.’ So we come here and we connect,” Kalem Walder, volunteering with his wife Kendra and their children from Tennessee, told Ynet.

“I’ve been bringing my family here every year, we come for six months a year and we bring thousands of people here to participate in something that we believe is ultimately going to change the world.”

The farmers and Orthodox Jews in these areas aren’t sure what to make of this phenomenon. On one hand they are concerned about possible missionary activity, but on the other hand they can see that these gentiles are helpful and they return to their nations as “ambassadors” for Israel.

The farmers are happy to get help and to forge new connections. And yet, the Jewish settlers, mainly Nationalistic Religious orthodox, worry about inappropriate relationships or conversions that could possibly occur when the two groups mix.

HaYovel, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to help the harvest in Israel, brings hundreds of Christian volunteers every year to “serve Israel’s farmers,” particularly in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. While groups such as HaYovel help Israeli farmers other groups of Christians come to assist the Palestinians with their olive harvests.

Aware that “The Great Commission” motivates believers, rabbis have an ongoing debate about these harvesting missions by Christians. While some criticize and outright condemn Christian involvement, even refusing to accept gifts or help, others defend these Evangelical volunteers and even open their houses to them.

Awed by their presence, Ya’akov Berg of the Psagot Winery, admitted he is still stunned by this offer of free help.

“I couldn’t understand it,” he said. “But beyond the work itself—which assists us in picking the grapes on time, a great achievement in and of itself—what is important here is that this person returns to his home as a goodwill ambassador of Israel.”

HaYovel was founded in 2005 by Tommy and Sherri Waller from Tennessee after Tommy saw the need while on a trip to Israel a year before. Their statement of faith, as stated on their website is, “To strengthen and undergird the often overlooked small independent farmer in Israel through creative networking, education, tourism, and activism.”

HaYovel is endorsed by a surprising range of personalities including Rabbi and Knesset Member Yehuda Glick, Minister Rosemary Schindler Garlow, the former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and former US Congresswoman Michele Bachman.

Since its foundation, HaYovel has brought thousands of volunteers to work in Israeli wineries, farms and vineyards.

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Rachel (Rachely) Scapa, studied journalism at the Open University TLV under Yedioth Aharonoth's journalist Dudi Goldman. Rachel served as news correspondent for various radio stations abroad, including BBC 3 Counties and Voice of America, both in English and Portuguese, giving the best reports from Israel. Currently she has two radio shows - one in Portuguese, which she has had for more than 13 years, presenting News from Israel and the ME. In the other, in Hebrew, she presents Brazilian music, on an Israeli radio station. Rachely is also a columnist for a Christian newspaper in Brazil, distributed over the triple border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.