Samaria and Lessons from the Vineyard
Heart of Samaria
In the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria stands Mount Gerizim, surrounded by vineyards. It was at this mountain that Moses commanded Israel to place six tribes of Israel and the other six tribes on the opposing Mount Ebal while reading the blessings and curses of following or disregarding the Torah. From this point, Mount Gerizim was also known as the Mount of Blessing.
Fast forward a few thousand years. Through all of the wars, rulers, and desolation of the land, Israel returns as a nation to the land they were promised. After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel reclaimed the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to today as the West Bank (meaning the “West Bank” of the Jordan River, previously the nation of Jordan that was won during this defensive war). For the first time in thousands of years, the Mount of Blessing is under Israeli sovereignty but like much of land, it remained empty and desolate, until recently.
About 15 years ago, some young Jewish men, fresh out of their mandatory army service, recognized that no one was living on a portion of the Mount Gerizim. They believed that it was the time and season for Israel to resettle the land of their forefathers and chose an empty hillside on the top of the mountain. Looking for ways to bring in some income, vineyards were considered. Experts were brought in to evaluate the land, the soil, and topography to give their opinions on planting vineyards. The expert’s conclusion was that it was terrible soil, wrong elevation, and a host of other reasons why vineyards would never work. Yet, as God fearing men, they prayed and found this scripture:
“Again you will plant vineyards, on the hills of Samaria; The planters will plant and will enjoy them”. Jeremiah 31:5
Abundance in the Vineyards
With faith in God, a biblical promise about vineyards in Samaria and a healthy dose of Israeli chutspa (Yiddish slang term for “hardheaded nerve”) they randomly chose some grape varieties and planted some vineyards in Samaria, on the Mount of Blessing for the first time on almost 2000 years. Within a few years the vineyards exploded and the fruit was in high demand. For this reason, it was decided to begin making their own wine which soon also became wildly successful and called it Har Bracha or the Mount of Blessing vineyards.
A few years ago, after some local success, Har Bracha decided to enter a few of their wines into a 14,500 blind bottle taste test in Europe. Several categories were entered. To everyone’s surprise, Har Bracha won #2 in one category and won #3 in another, beating out famed and established wineries in France and Italy. The world loved Samaria’s wines, until politics crept in when they learned it was from “the occupied West Bank.”
During this time, a Christian organization called Hayovel connected with the vineyards and also saw a prophetic opportunity in the Scriptures found in Isaiah 61:5.
“Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.” Isaiah 61:5
Hayovel brings hundreds of Christians every year to the vineyards of Samaria during vineyard pruning, planting, and harvest time. This is done as free service and blessing to the farmers and vineyard owners in Samaria. From their selfless service, in 10 years Hayovel has seen and helped these vineyards increase by 750 percent. If you would like to personally get involved, find out more at www.hayovel.com.
For the first time since the time of Yeshua, Christians and Jews are working together and sharing Sabbath meals together in the hills of Samaria. And more importantly, the name of Yeshua is being honored and His selfless love is being demonstrated in the biblical heartland of Israel.
God is fulfilling His promises to His people Israel and the “nations” that can recognize it, have a unique opportunity to be a part of that process. Now is the time.
Vineyard and Vines in the Bible
In biblical times, vineyards were common. It was a great source of income, food, and drink as well as a place to enjoy and celebrate. Yeshua often referred to vineyards or the vines in His teachings, but for us that are removed from that culture, we often miss what was readily understood to His listeners.
Recently, I had the opportunity to join some friends working in the vineyards of Samaria during the annual vineyard pruning. With pruning shears in hand, this is a little of what I learned about vines, pruning and portions of John 15.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2
Pruning is necessary if good fruit is to be produced. While dead branches are always pruned, it also involves pruning seemingly healthy branches that are not in the right position. This provides more life giving nutrients to the best positioned branches that will produce the best crop. In the same way, our western culture often looks for as much fruit as possible. This is not the way of the vineyards. If the vinedresser simply looks for quantity over quality, all of the fruit will be average at best. If he prunes wisely, there may be a slightly less fruit, but the fruit that is grown is in the best condition. Effective pruning always produces the best fruit.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
The Pruning at the Vineyard
Many branches are found growing on the main vine. Yet the further away from the vine these branches grow, the harder it is for them to get the needed nutrients to produce what the vinedresser desires. Branches that are growing to the side or underneath the vine are trimmed since they will have a harder time getting the needed sunlight. It also is simply easier to harvest a branch that is growing straight up. So after pruning the underside and sides of the vine, few branches may be growing close together. The vinedresser will keep the most upright and the others are pruned. The closer the branch is the vine, the healthier and more fruitful it will be. Likewise, if we are going to bear fruit that the Father desires, the closer we are to Yeshua, the better.
When the dead branches are removed, the underside and wayward branches are trimmed, the spacing of the remaining branches is considered. Upright and fruitful branches need at least 4-5 inches from each other so as to allow the wind (or “ruach” in Hebrew) to pass through them. These branches will still produce large and beautiful fruit, but if the wind is not able to pass through them, the fruit will become moldy, attract insects and be ruined. In Hebrew, the word wind and spirit are the same – “ruach.” Even though we have been pruned and produce “quality fruit” in our life, this is not enough by itself. If the Spirit (Ruach) is not able to blow through that fruit, our crop is in danger of being lost. It is wise to take the time to be alone and allow the Spirit to blow over us. He is the one that keeps us healthy until the time that our Vinedresser comes for the harvest.
It is easy to look at God’s pruning of our lives as painful or difficult, but this in not His intention. It is His way of ensuring that we produce the best fruit possible. May we stay close the Vine, live upright and feel his “ruach” around us.