(Written by Luke Hilton, the Director of Marketing at HaYovel)
I would like to ask a question: if the 1.5 million worldwide Christian tourists who come to Israel every year cared deeply enough to visit Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the place that much of the world calls the “West Bank” and wants to turn into a Palestinian State), would there be fewer murders of Jews in Israel? Hear me out on this idea, as I believe it is crucial to the Christian community’s support for Israel.
On September 16th, 2018, Ari Fuld, a 45-year-old father of 4, was stabbed and murdered in cold blood by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist just outside a grocery store near the Gush Etzion Junction, just south of Jerusalem. Before collapsing and ultimately succumbing to his wounds, he managed to chase down and shoot the terrorist, thereby preventing him from stabbing anyone else.
On Sunday, October 7th, 2018, a 23-year-old Palestinian terrorist entered the factory where he worked in the Barkan Industrial Park, near the city of Ariel. After working for a short time, he retrieved a submachine gun from his bag and used it to kill two of his co-workers, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, and Ziv Hajbi, 35. He even handcuffed Yehezkel before shooting her in cold blood. After shooting and wounding a third co-worker and firing at several others, he managed to flee the scene. As I write, security forces are still searching for the murderer. Kim Levengrond Yehezkel was survived by her husband and their 15-month-old son, and Ziv Hajbi was a father to 3 children.
The interesting thing about these two latest terrorist attacks in Israel is that both of the attack sites had previously become famous examples of peaceful coexistence. The supermarket chain Rami Levy is known for allowing Jews and Palestinians to work and shop together, and its location in Gush Etzion where Ari Fuld was murdered just outside is open to both Jews and Palestinians, to freely come and go. The Barkan Industrial Park is located close to Ariel in Samaria, and employs 8,000 people, roughly half of whom are Palestinians, all of them receiving the same wages and benefits, and working together on a daily basis.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss the issue of coexistence, or whether or not a Palestinian state will be successful in the peace process. As a Christian, I am a firm believer that the best possible thing for the Jews and Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria would be for Israel to resettle and restore these areas as a part of the State of Israel. If you don’t agree with me, just come here and see it for yourself.
There are approximately 1.5 million Christians that visit Israel every year. As someone who has been coming back and forth to Judea and Samaria every year for the last ten years, I can testify that a minuscule percentage of this number actually makes it to these areas on their trips. Most tours are focused on the traditional sites – Galilee, the Dead Sea, Masada, the Mount of Olives, the Old City of Jerusalem, etc. The question that I ask is: why isn’t the Biblical Heartland included on Israel’s list of major sites in Israel? Since more than 80% of our Bible was either written or took place in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – aka the “West Bank” – it does not make sense that tours do not come here.
Just to name a few examples of the sites in Judea and Samaria, we have:
Elon Moreh, where Abraham stood in Genesis 12 and God promised him the land, pronouncing the famous verse “I will bless those who bless you…” (Genesis 12:3a);
The Mountains of Blessing and Cursing, where Joshua declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15b), and where Jesus ministered to the woman at the well (John 4);
Shiloh, where the Tabernacle stood for 369 years and God’s glory dwelt;
Bethel, where Jacob had his dream;
Hebron, where all the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried;
and the list goes on and on.
When traveling in Judea and Samaria, it is impossible to throw a stone and not hit a story straight from the Bible.
Over the last 14 years, HaYovel, a humanitarian non-profit organization from the United States whose mission is to assist the farmers in Judea and Samaria, has brought close to 3,000 people from 30 different countries around the world to the Heartland of Israel. We provide a program where volunteers assist the farmers in Judea and Samaria, and they are also given a tour unlike any other – they meet the pioneers living here, and travel to the biblical sites that most do not. By the end of the program, these volunteers are educated as effective ambassadors to go back to their home countries and spread the truth about what they have seen and heard. Today, we bring 300-400 volunteers per year on various volunteer programs throughout the year.
Although this may seem like a big impact, it is still a small work when compared to the more than one million Christians visiting Israel every year. Not only that, but the Palestinian movement is funded and supported by millions of dollars and a worldwide movement of people. Sadly, most of this well-meaning support does not actually reach the Palestinian people but goes to the pockets of their corrupt leaders and to terrorists. It is a well-known fact that Palestinians who murder innocent Israelis receive handsome lifetime salaries while in Israeli prisons–much more support for their families than they could earn in an average job working for their own government. Palestinians are driven to incitement by their leaders in the Palestinian Authority, their media, and their school systems, where children are taught from a young age to hate Jews.
On the opposite side, although growing, there are still very few Christians and tourists who visit Judea and Samaria. Even though there are millions of pro-Israel Christians worldwide, the majority of them either do not voice public support for Israel’s heartland, or they are ignorant of what is really happening here. Many are afraid to come here because of the image that the media has reported. The reality is that there are more than 400,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and another 270,000 living in what is known as East Jerusalem. These are the brave pioneers that choose to stand on God’s promises by resettling the mountains of Israel, building houses, planting agriculture, and restoring Israel’s heartland. Yet they are not empowered by the international community, but rather constantly struggle just to survive on a daily basis.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who says to Zion, ‘your God reigns.’p” (Isaiah 52:7)
In contrast to the evil agenda of the terrorists who murder innocent Jews, empowered by an international community that supports them in the form of millions of dollars and a worldwide voice in their support, imagine if there was a global movement amongst Christians to support the place where God declared His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Imagine if the millions of Christians worldwide stood up with one courageous voice and said: “enough is enough!” Imagine tour buses crowding the biblical sites in Judea and Samaria, and volunteers flooding the communities, declaring their physical support for the land and people here. Imagine financial, prayerful, political and advocacy support for the Heartland of Israel amongst the nations of the world.
If there were millions of beautiful feet declaring their support for God’s promises that were spoken in this place, would Islamic terrorists feel so empowered to go out and murder innocent Jews? The obvious answer is a resounding and challenging NO!
We need more beautiful feet on the mountains of Israel.