I have been to Israel many times over the past 18 years and each time seem to draw closer to the Land and people of Israel.
In recent years, I have become particularly connected to Judea and Samaria, the Biblical Heartland of Israel and home to the so-called settlements—the most controversial area in Israel today. What many view as illegally occupied by Israel, to me and most Christians—is the heart of the land that G-d promised to Abraham and his children, the Nation of Israel. And the Jews who live there today, do so from a Biblical and prophetic vision. 80% of our Bible is located in this area and is where God entered into Covenants with Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
My dear Israeli friend, Sondra Oster Baras, is the director of the Israel office of CFOIC Heartland. Sondra is an orthodox Jew but through CFOIC Heartland, has been reaching out to Christians all over the world, giving them the opportunity to connect and understand the realities of life in Judea and Samaria. Just this past year, I agreed to become CFOIC Heartland’s Australian representative and have grown even closer to Sondra and the amazing work of this wonderful organization. Soon after arriving in Israel a few months ago, I was able to join the 2018 CFOIC Heartland Tour for 2 days in Judea and Samaria and I would like to share my experiences with you.
Our first day began at an outlook in Mitzpe Dani, built in memory of Dani Fry, a young husband/father who was murdered in his own home on Shabbat in 1995. The terrorist also stabbed his pregnant wife. Following the tragedy, the young widow ended up moving back to the US, where she had grown up, but the baby she was carrying when her husband was murdered has now returned to live in the Land her father loved so much. When Dani’s neighbors decided to start Mitzpe Dani in his memory, it was their way of creating something good in a place where so much evil had taken place, a common response to terrorism in Israel.
From Mitzpe Dani we moved on to “Genesis Land” a lovely spot 800 meters high, where we were greeted by hosts in Biblical dress who shared the stories of Abraham and of Joshua’s crossing into the Land. And we looked across the desert landscapes and saw Mt Nebo where Moses looked into the Land from the other side of the Jordan. Absolutely stunning views and a highly recommended place to visit on your next trip! In fact, I’ve decided that Route 458 is one of my favourite roads here where we can truly experience the “The Mountains of Israel”.
Our next stop was Kfar Adumin where we had lunch at a Senior Citizens Centre, supported by CFOIC Heartland and catering to those original founders of the communities in this region who have retired at 65 and who may be lonely or just looking for positive recreation. It was a reminder of how young the communities in Judea and Samaria are as they are facing the challenges of retirement for the first time, creating the necessary infrastructure from scratch.
All of the above communities were quite close to Mikhmas where Jonathan and his armour bearer defeated the Philistines (1 Samuel 13) and where the British Army in WW1, using the same strategy, routed a huge Turkish Brigade and put them on the run.
We continued on into Judea visiting beautiful Tekoa, a community with panoramic views of the Judean Desert. Here too, the residents have faced the loss of too many of their friends and neighbors from acts of terrorism. The most horrific to me was the vicious stoning of two teenage hikers in 2001 who were found murdered just 200 metres from their home. During the last Intifada (2000-2004) residents traveled a long and arduous route to Jerusalem to avoid hazardous areas, and parents often travelled separately so that if a car was attacked, (which often happened) the children would still have one surviving parent. Imagine considering such things before leaving for work in the morning! Miraculously though, life in the community continues—the residents believe that settling im the Land and raising children are the best ways they can contribute to Israel’s future. And we were able to witness how Christians have helped this community acquire vital surveillance cameras and other security equipment to keep these families safe.
Tene Omarim is one of the southern-most communities on Highway 60 quite close to Beersheva and it too has scenic views of the surrounding countryside. CFOIC Heartland has also assisted this community with security needs which is one of the biggest challenges for all of the communities. And yet, everywhere we visited, we heard residents assure us that they wanted to continue to build and enjoy life to the hilt – most of them saying they would not want to live anywhere else in Israel.
The next day, we visited Samaria. I was particularly moved by our visit to Neve Zuf, north of Jerusalem, in the center of Samaria. They had recently experienced the brutal murder of 3 members of the Salomon family, during a Shabbat family celebration and just a few months earlier, had experienced a devastating fire, set by Arab terrorist arsonists, in which close to 20 homes had been destroyed. Thank God no lives were lost in the fire. Imagine how these residents felt, especially when they have welcomed local Arabs who have sought and received emergency medical treatment from Neve Zuf medics. The most veteran of Neve Zuf families lost their homes and yet they retained a marvelous sense of humor, making T-Shirts that read: ‘In case of a Fire stay calm and do another Fire Drill’.
Over our two days we also visited a brand new community called Leshem about 37 kms from Jerusalem in Western Samaria with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. There was absolutely nothing on this hilltop in 2011 when building began and today Leshem is home to some 1000 residents and averaging 4 births a week!!! Needless to say it is full of kindergartens and other educational facilities and all houses are new and quite modern looking. Adjacent to the community is an archaeological site—a Christian Byzantine farm named Dier Samaan where the remains of well-preserved olive presses, winepresses, cisterns, ponds and a Byzantine church have been found.
I was so excited by what I had discovered on these two days with CFOIC Heartland that a few days later, a few of us decided to set out on our own. We unexpectedly had the use of a hire car for a week so we literally covered the land from Rosh Hanikra in the north (amazing underground sea caves) to Mitzpe Ramon in the south (a mini grand canyon) and from the 7 layers of civilization at Tamar Biblical Garden (south of the Dead Sea) to Tiberius. But our favourite area was Judea and Samaria and we were able to visit the Gush Etzion Bloc (where so many terrorist incidents have happened) and we made sure we enjoyed our coffee and cheesecake at one of the wineries and picked up some excellent pastry at the local bakery to show our solidarity with the locals. We were able to visit Oz VeGaon, a beautiful nature reserve near the Gush Etzion Junction that has been dedicated in memory of the 3 young boys who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014. It was lovely to see the picnic area full of young families barbecuing during the Passover holiday. The amazing audio visual at Kfar Etzion, telling the story of the fall of the Gush Etzion area in 1948 is well worth a watch, especially in its updated version. But make sure to have your tissues with you—it is so moving!
Our adventures took us to another winery in Samaria where we walked into a Brit (circumcision) of young Dagan on his 8th day and were promptly invited by the Orthodox family to join them. It’s so neat that Vitamin K only kicks in on the 8th day after birth, enabling the blood to clot immediately. A Brit in Israel is over in 3 seconds compared with 7 minutes in the Western World, according to the Mohel (ritual circumciser). This winery (where we stuck to coffee and left the wine for others) also had spectacular views into Jordan and the countryside in between. On our last day of adventure along the northern part of Route 60, (Path of the Patriarchs) we made sure to stop in at Shiloh, Mt Gerizim and the Tura Winery at Rehelim—a community built in memory of 2 Rachels who had been murdered in two separate terrorist attacks nearby, a fascinating story in itself. I love Judea and Samaria and the beautiful, Godly and courageous people who live there!
I want to invite you to join me and let me take you through Israel and especially through Judea and Samaria. Next year, for the first time, I will be leading a CFOIC Heartland tour with special focus on Judea and Samaria. We are just finalizing the details but if you can get away in September, this is definitely a unique tour for you. I look forward to having you join me as we see the inside of Israel and meet the people who built this land and understand its Biblical reality. Send me an email at email@example.com and I will be sure to send you the program as soon as it is finalized.
Also, please visit www.cfoic.com Meet Sondra and Kim, the director of our US office, and learn about the work of this amazing organization in Judea and Samaria. CFOIC Heartland has a long-standing and special relationship with C4I in the Netherlands and around the world—and is eager to meet C4I members in person and by email. It is truly a partnership between Jews who are settling in the land and Christians who understand the Biblical significance of it all. Get involved—we’re not only making history, we’re fulfilling prophecy!