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Touring the Heartland

Submitted By: David

Our train of passenger vans snaked through the mountains of Samaria – a fluid spectacle of movement passing quickly through the early morning darkness.

We had been traveling east through the biblical heartland toward an orange haze beneath the pale blue distant horizon. Suddenly we began an abrupt ascent and the road turned jagged and rocky. Anticipation pulsed – we were ascending one of the highest mountains in Israel, racing the sun to watch it emerge from behind the mountains of Jordan and the low lying clouds that hung between heaven and earth. Within moments our vehicles were stopped and we began the short walk to the crest of Elon Moreh. We made it! The sun had not yet lifted itself from behind the Jordanian mountain ridge. Yet the buzz was not for the sake of a sunrise breakfast and mountain top view – this was no ordinary mountain. We were standing in the place where G-d showed Abraham the land of his inheritance. Where one’s eye can see a broad stroke of the land – as far as Jerusalem in the south and Mount Hermon in the north. On this very mountain, the King of the Universe made a decree and spoke a promise – an eternal word of hope for the seed of Abraham.

“Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as Elon Moreh. Then the L-RD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” Genesis 12:6-7

     Over an hour had passed before we made our descent from the peak of Elon Moreh. The route was tortuous as we skirted around the biblical city of Shechem. We travelled into the depths of a wide valley that lay between the mountains of Elon Moreh, Itamar, Mount Ebal and our next destination – The Mountain of Blessing. This historic mountain rests opposite Mount Ebal which is also known as the Mountain of the Curse. With a deep but narrow valley interposed between these two peaks, Joshua and the Elders stood somewhere in the valley and were flanked by half of the tribes on Mount Gerizim (Blessing) and half of the tribes on Mount Ebal (Curses). It was here that the Covenant was reaffirmed – Israel would be the people of the Almighty and the Almighty would be the Sovereign of this people.

“All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the L-RD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the L-RD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel.” Joshua 8:33

     We had yet one more stop on this morning tour. We loaded up the vehicles and travelled a short distance to ascend another important mountain in the biblical region of Samaria to Kfar Tappuah. This broad, flat-topped mountain sits about 35 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea in the west and 35 kilometers from the Jordanian mountain ridge in the east. Our distinguished guide, for this segment of the tour, shared a story of interest with the vinedressers and harvesters who are the fabric of our group. He talked about a promise that was spoken thousands of years earlier – that vines would again take root in the mountains of Samaria. But even 15-20 years ago this word remained unfulfilled. Experts came to the region and proclaimed the land unsuitable for grapes – too rocky. But resting at the feet of our guide was a deep pit that had been hewn out of the rock several millennia ago. This pit was a remnant of an ancient winepress – proof that vines had once flourished here. Against the counsel of experts, the brave farmers of Judea and Samaria began to plant. Today, prophecy is being fulfilled. Grapes are being harvested and the winepresses are dripping their fragrant juice that will ferment sweetly into award winning boutique wines.

“Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; The planters will plant and will enjoy them.” Jeremiah 31:5