This week I met with Tommy Waller and Aaron Murphy of HaYovel. Tommy hails from Franklin, Tennessee and Aaron is from Denver, Colorado. For the last ten years or so these men have been organizing other fundamentalist Christian men and women like themselves traveling to and ascending on the land of Israel to assist farmers in the Jewish state with the annual fall harvest in the fields and then the planting in the spring.
HaYovel primarily works the fields in Judea and Samaria as they feel a special connectedness to what is commonly referred to as “greater Israel,” and the biblical land of Israel. In the past their group totaled a bit over 200 such volunteers and this fall Tommy believes, they will be taking about 300 people with them.
“I never before touched the word of G-d the way I do in Israel,” Mr. Waller says. They consider this project to be a profound privilege that moves them to the core of their bible believing souls. It was a fascinating exercise to sit for an hour with Tommy and Aaron and listen to their profound expressions of love for Israel and the Jewish people.
At the outset of our conversations I addressed the concern that their ultimate objective was to missionize amongst the Jewish people and if possible to create converts to their brand of fundamentalist Christianity. I worked with fundamentalist Christians at a radio station here in New York in the mid 1980’s so I am somewhat familiar with their agendas and objectives on some levels.
They both explained that the rules for the group against missionizing in any way shape or form are very strict. Throughout their stay in Israel they live segregated from the Jewish population that they work with so as not to cast even a minimal image of suspicion in this direction.
Tommy explains that this project grew out of the difficulty farmers in the Shomron have in recruiting or hiring reliable workers. He explains that very often local Arabs that are hired to work during the day sneak back in at night to vandalize and damage the same farms they work on during the day.
I was introduced to the group a year ago by political consultant Jeff Balabon at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. Accepting Christian sources of funding has divided Israeli’s for many years. Some are ardently against it while others see it as being helpful, building bridges and helping the overall world image of the state of Israel.