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Quick Trip

By Chris Josephson

“A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deut. 11:12).

In our last Bible Light on the News’ editorial, we mentioned that I’d been given a short 6-day trip to Jerusalem to see about our almond orchard. As I was preparing to go, a friend, who is a woman of prayer, called to tell me she had been praying for me. She said that the Lord would protect me and open doors before me. This prophecy proved true in unbelievable ways as the short days were packed with wonderful experiences. I can only share a few in the space provided in this publication.

I arrived about noon on Thursday. Because of the onset of the Sabbath [Forget about doing much on Friday in Israel because of Sabbath preparations], and talks with the Prime Minister, Yehudit Tayar of the Yesha office was unable to take me to Ma’ale Michmas to see the almond orchard until the first of the week. This gave a few days to greet old friends and meet new ones.

Clarence Wagner, the international director of Bridges for Peace, had just returned from a trip to S. Africa and graciously welcomed me. They have lovely newly acquired facilities in the heart of Jerusalem. If you are not acquainted with the fine work of Bridges for Peace, I suggest you contact them at PO Box 33145, Tulsa, Ok 74153-1145 and get on their mailing list for their fine publications. (See Keys to Israel in Prophecy Today for excerpts from his teaching letter.)

Among other friends who are ‘veterans’ in the ministry of restoration are Claude and Marianne Duvernoy. They moved to Israel from France many years ago. Claude is a minister of Presbyterian and Huguenot background, while Marianne is fully Jewish. Marianne searches out the poor and needy who are overlooked by other philanthropic endeavors, and helps them with the supply brought from her husband’s ministry in France and other countries. Claude Duvernoy is author of many books, among which is  The Zionism of God  and The Prince and the Prophet.

Bus t o Hebron

After the Sabbath I took a bus to Hebron to meet a friend, Gary Cooperberg, whom I had known only by correspondence until then .

And what a revelation the bus ride was! It had been many years since I’d gone that route, and I did not look forward to the primitive road through Arab villages. To my joy I found the bus traveling over a new highway, even through tunnels hewn through the rock terrain, bringing to mind Isaiah 49:11: “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.”

My friend met me at the bus stop and showed me around their place, The Nir College of Judaic Studies, as well as Makpelah where the patriarchs are buried.

Gary is a remarkable man, an orthodox Jew having an understanding of Gentile believers, such as I, who have an urgency to help and be a part of the restoration of Israel. I filmed him during our interview and if you’d like to have a copy, write us at Bible Light and send $10 to help cover costs.

At the time of my visit, Gary mentioned that a group of Christians were arriving that week to visit him in Hebron. After my return to the states, I received his e-mail article about that visit – See page 10 for his article.

Bible Light Almond Orchard

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psalm 1:3). This verse of Scripture is written in Hebrew on the sign designating the area of the almond orchard.

Our readers may recall that in March 1997, five months after Elmer Josephson departed this life, I took a tour group to Israel and stayed a few days longer to begin the almond orchard in his memory. The place chosen for the project was at the settlement, Ma’ale Michmas. Ma’ale means “from the heights; and Michmas means “secret place” or ‘treasures” [of the Most High]. It is a Jewish settlement high in the mountains northeast of Jerusalem. The dollars I had with me then and those that have since been sent are donated by those who wish to plant a tree(s) in memory of, or in honor of someone. (See page 18 how you can take part in this project.)

Yehudit Tayar, who is the spokesperson for the Yesha council, graciously brought me again this time in her car to the settlement. We were accompanied by the secretary of the settlement, Yehiel Hamdi Levi.

Hilltop Manner

Just before reaching Michmas, we stopped at Mitzpe Danny, an outpost of Ma’ale Michmas, named in memory of Danny Frei. Danny died at the hands of a terrorist who invaded his yard. His wife and one year old child survived the attack, but not Danny nor the baby in the womb of his wife.

Mitzpe Danny is one of the seven new hilltop outposts in the process of receiving permanent construction permits. At present there are only caravans (mobile homes) on these hilltops. It was explained to me that the outposts are within the settlements’ master plan and are security points of protection. The settlers set up caravans on hilltops near their settlement. Yesha negotiators agreed to them being frozen, that is, no immediate development planned. The caravans are occupied by a few brave souls who are like watchmen for the settlement.

At Ma’ale Michmas, I learned that about 400 trees have been planted in our almond orchard and there is space for 400 more. Drip irrigation had been installed to water each tree. I learned that it takes four years for the trees to grow enough to produce fruit. This shows the urgency of completing the project so the orchard can be of help to the settlement economically, as well as a memorial made possible by you, my friends, who plant trees there.

There has been a dynamic growth to the settlement and I saw large apartment complexes going up south of the original houses.

Several member of the settlement were on hand to welcome me. You would have thought Bible Light was building the whole settlement by the warm reception I received. I was given a lovely gift (colored glass-serving receptacle) and pictures were taken. Just before I left for the States, the settlement presented me with a set of the pictures framed together with an appreciation note and the Scripture from Ezekiel 28:26, “And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards”. This verse is also on the entrance to the settlement.

Don’t Fence Me In

The controversial idea of creating a physical separation between Israelis and Palestinians was given a new life when Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently pulled the separation idea out of the deep freeze. The proposal calls for erecting a fence along Israel’s approximately 190-mile future border along the mountain area to protect Israel against terror attacks.

Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria  oppose the idea, saying it will forever cut them off from the Jewish State, and it would mean that Israel has accepted the 1967 borders.

Palestinian Arabs fear the strict limitation on their entry into Israel that would be imposed on them. They are eager to proclaim their political independence, yet realize separation would be tantamount to economic strangulation. They say the present economic conditions in the Palestine Authority (PA) are worse than during the Israeli occupation and separation would be economic divorce and suicide. “You cannot have hungry neighbors,” said Hisham Awartani, head of the economics department at Najah University at Nablus.

Some Israeli experts say the economic argument is invalid, for even in those years when the Palestinian economy was having a marked improvement, Palestinian violence increased.

Separation would create a major security problem for Israel. To avoid infiltration, border patrol units, thermal detection devices and reconnaissance planes would be employed to prevent any unauthorized crossings.

In his article in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, Gary Rosenblatt wrote, “The issue for Israel is not whether it trusts Yasser Arafat and his motives, but whether it can establish a reality that he, and they, can live with. The end game is not about harmony and brotherhood. It’s about separation and weighing the costs of conflict. It’s not about peace. It’s about living without war.”

Because a quick solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not in sight, Israel must adopt a strategy of total separation? Is that one of the “final solutions”?

“They have healed also the hurt of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14).

Some Gleaned Facts

“Territories” is the name often used in referring to the land returned to Israel in the Six-Day War (1967). These are the Golan Heights (figuring highly in the news at the time of this writing), Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In this present issue of Bible Light on the News, we are looking mainly at Judea since that is where our almond orchard is, and the area I visited in November.

A play on the word “territories” can be made by a little change to get “TERRORtories.” That is what they have become, especially during the intifada uprising. Israel is so sick of violence and war. They are so hungry for peace, they’re ready to give their last shirt for it. But man’s struggles for peace often result in: “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace” (Isa. 59:8). Our understanding is that separation, fences, security roads, bypasses, etc. will not bring peace in the region. When true peace comes, “an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness. . . .” And “Israel shall be the third with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance” (Isa. 35:8 and 19:24,25).

Regarding the settlements in the “terroritories”, they are divided into two categories. 1) those on the mountain ridge from Nablus to Hebron are mainly Bible believers. (2 Those within a few kilometers of the Green Line (name given the border before the 6-Day War)  settled there for economic reasons and a desire for the small-town life. There are about 145 settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Yesha is the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza and is the name adopted by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, founded in 1979. It is dominated by the mountain ridge settlers, though it does not speak for all of them.

Today its tone is being set by a pragmatic leadership who  came to an agreement with Prime Minister Barak to dismantle a dozen of the outposts established when Binyamin Netanyahu was at the helm.

The NEXT Generation

Dissension was brewing while I was there. Many disagreed to ANY “dismantling”. In fact, a new settlement-based organization called Dor Hahemsheck – the Next Generation – has been spawned. Made up mostly of younger people from the encampments who have decided that the time has come for action, said Shimon Ricklin, an archeologist from Ma’ale Michmas who lives at the outpost Mitzpe Danny. He was adamant that no encampments be dismantled.

Young couples, for the most part, began the hilltop outposts, from existing settlements. This was their Zionist response to what they deemed a betrayal of their homeland.

The compromise between Barak and the settlers’ leaders has seemingly exacerbated the rift between them and the younger Dor Hahemshech activists.

My friend, Gary Cooperberg, would agree with those who say the agreement the council made with Barak to take down the outposts is an effort to put everyone to sleep. He is strong in his belief that nothing can be achieved by compromise.

How Did it Happen?

Most of us “laymen” understand the effect of personalities in our relationships, but somehow think government leaders are above that. Not so!

Settler leaders visiting the Prime Minister’s office get friendly backslaps. Barak knows many of them from military days and seems to understand and empathize with them. He does not dismiss the settlers the way Rabin did, and he does not deny their pain. He tells them, “The thought of giving up land tears my heart. I have an emotional and physical attachment to each and every one of these places, but difficult, painful decisions must be made.”

Barak walks the middle ground by embracing the settlers; at the same time, he stands firm in his ultimate resolve not to give in to their demands. He has no intention of letting them thwart his plans. He has said that painful decisions must be made because all the settlements will NOT survive. He reiterates that blocs of settlements will remain under Israeli rule. (Does this mean others will be under the PA? What about those “fences”?)

He asks them to help resolve conflicts with more “extremist settlers”. In this is the way, Barak got the settlers to agree to dismantle and evacuate some of their own outposts. This is the first time settlers have voluntarily agreed to do this. A precedent was set for smaller settlements to relocate into larger bodies.

Barak never promised that the encampments and settlements would not ultimately be removed. He only promised to let them know about any decisions regarding their fate. So why do the settlers trust Barak?

I was in Israel during the time a meeting took place between Barak and the settlers about this situation. Barak and the settlers said the participants were “speaking the same language which in these hard times is already something.”

Calls of “traitor” were heard and my friend Yehudit Tayar confessed she was persecuted and called names because of  this action, yet she felt they had reached the best bargain possible. Many of the settlers seem to feel that there is little left for them to do other than limit the damage and seek common ground with the Prime Minister.

If Push Comes to Shove

“The point is to ascertain that all communities remain under Israeli sovereignty and that Israel retains control over access roads, electricity and water supplies,” said the former chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council, Pinhas Wallerstein. (Ma’ale Michmas is in the Binyamin [Benjamin] Regional Council.)

Wallerstein said Barak is the first Prime Minister to give legitimacy to most of the 42 encampments that dot the hills of Judea and Samaria. Prior to the compromise Barak made with the settlers, these encampments were considered illegal.

Still the warning came that Barak should think twice before dividing settlements into blocs and isolated communities. In this case the settlers would exhaust all legal means in an attempt to topple the government.

Barak includes some of the communities in his ultimate vision of sovereign Israel. Beit El [Bethel], the area where Michmas is located, is one. But if Barak considers allowing half of the communities to remain under Israeli rule and the other half under Palestinian rule, the settlers say that would be an impossible situation.

“A house divided against itself shall not stand,” – Matthew 12:25.

Only a few of the residents are willing to leave their homes in exchange for monetary compensation.

Final? Who Talks Last?

 “For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel . . . Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD . . . That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath; it shall not return any more” (Ezk. 12:24,28 & 21:5).

As a Labor leader who has vowed to resolve final border issues, Barak has to take action against the settlements. He is trying to do this without a showy display, but some 5,000 people demonstrated in protest in front of his residence.

“Final” status talks include:

  • Palestinian Arab statehood,

  • permanent borders,

  • water supplies,

  • Jewish settlements,

  • Palestinian Arab refugees who want to return and

  • the status of Jerusalem.

High stakes! In fact so high only the Most High can and will have the FINAL say. “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD deligheth in thee, and thy land shall be married” (Isa. 62:4).

After my arrival back in the states, the news came through that the Palestinians had suspended final status talks preceding the arrival of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, demanding that Israel immediately stop all settlement construction – so what else is new!

At the Rabin memorial ceremony in Oslo in early November, Barak was upset over Arafat’s speech when he mentioned a Jerusalem “holy to the Palestinians” and spoke of the evil of settlements.

“In spite of our happiness with the start of implementation of the memorandum,” Arafat said, “we feel great concern over this destructive danger posed by the Israeli policy of settlements to the peace process, which has barely started to recuperate.” He added that the settlements are “a threat to the whole process.”

Barak’s office said a memorial ceremony is not the right place for political statements.

Barak was annoyed also by Regional Planning Minister Shimon Peres’s decision to call Arafat “president.”

Meantime Back at Michmas

I was taken to the school to meet the children and their teacher. As in all settlements, every day you can see mothers and fathers take their cars and go to work. Children go off to school. Senior citizens, collective and beloved grandparents, receive loving care they deserve. Families from countries the world over choose to build their future in communities such as this throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

There has been dynamic growth in Yesha communities both physically and spiritually. Yesha now numbers over 200,000 Jewish men, women and children. Michmas itself has nearly doubled since I was there last. Faith has taken root and blossomed into many educational facilities and synagogues throughout the settlements. The people’s determination is unshakable. Miracles attest this resoluteness.

These pioneers in the historic heartland of Israel continue to set the Biblical pace for the Jewish people.

At Ma’ale Michmas I met the mother of TEN children. She is also the ambulance driver – when they get one! When I learned that they are in need of an ambulance, by faith I doubled the check I’d brought for the trees and told them to put it toward the ambulance. I asked them, and they promised, to pray for me as I made an appeal for this need. The ambulance will cost $45,000. Will you help? Any amount!

There are churches and organizations that have a concern for these mountain settlements and have “adopted” them as a project to pray for and help them however they can. There are those who work constantly matching the churches with settlements. It seems the Lord has “matched” us with Ma’ale Michmas. This means:

(1) Please put them on your prayer list. Praying for those in the pictures of this publication is a good place to start.

(2) When a loved one or friend dies, or when there is an occasion to honor someone, plant a tree in his or her memory or honor – or simply because you want to plant one for yourself.

(3) Help the settlement purchase the ambulance they need. They are high in the mountain area and not close to a hospital. You will help save lives and as a wise rabbi said, “He who saves a life, saves a world.”

Our cry is from the Heartland of the U.S.A. to the HEARTLAND OF ISRAEL. Will you join with Bible Light in our concern for this mountain settlement? In so doing, you can help fulfill the prophecy: “the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God” (Jer. 31:6). The Restoration is on. Let us be doers and not hearers only of God’s Word (James 1:22).              -

In addition to on-spot observation, I’m indebted to Yesha’s publications, the JTA and related news sources.