The Significance of Samaria
Judea and Samaria seem to be the Biblical heartland. Surrounding the mountains of Jerusalem, near the Jordan River and spreading over the plains and the desert, this historical land has had many names over the years.
A mountain in the middle of Samaria, Mount Gerizim, is surrounded by vineyards. It was the very mountain Moses pointed to, commanding Israel to place six tribes of Israel in this land. The other six tribes were on the opposing Mount Ebal.
Moses read the blessings and curses associated with following or disregarding the Torah. From this point on, 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.
Today it is commonly referred to as the West Bank (pointing to the fact that it is on the west bank of the Jordan River).
The Mount of Blessing?
For the first time in thousands of years, the Mount of Blessing is under Israeli sovereignty again. But like much of the land, it remained empty and desolate for centuries just until recently.
About 20 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 to revive it.
They wanted to resettle the land of their forefathers on the empty hillside near the top of the mountain. Looking for ways to bring in some income, they considered planting vineyards.
Experts were brought in to evaluate the land, the soil, and topography to give their opinions on planting vineyards. Their conclusion was that the soil was terrible, the land had wrong elevation, and a host of other reasons why the vineyard idea would never work.
Abundance in the Vineyards
Yet, as God fearing men, they prayed proclaiming this scripture:
“Again you will plant vineyards, on the hills of Samaria; The planters will plant and will enjoy them.” Jeremiah 31:5
With faith in God, a biblical promise about vineyards in Samaria and a healthy dose of Israeli chutzpa (Yiddish slang term for “hardheaded nerve”) they refused to give up. They randomly chose some grape varieties and planted vineyards in Samaria.
For the first time in almost 2000 years there was now a vineyard on the Mount of Blessing. And within just a few years the vineyards exploded, producing an abundance of fruit that was in high demand.
With such great success with growth on the Mount of Blessing, they decided to begin making their own wine. Soon, it also became wildly successful under the label Har Bracha or the Mount of Blessing vineyards.
After some local success, Har Bracha decided to enter a few of their wines into a 14,500 blind bottle taste test in Europe. To everyone’s surprise, Har Bracha won #2 in one category, landed #3 in another, beating out famed and established wineries from France and Italy.
The world loved Samaria’s wines, until politics crept in when they learned it was from “the occupied West Bank.”
Jews and Christians Join Hands in Samaria
During this time, a Christian organization called HaYovel reached out to the vineyards after seeing a prophetic connection in the Scriptures, found in Isaiah 61:5:
“Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.”
In result, the organization brings hundreds of Christian visitors every year to the vineyards of Samaria. They come to witness vineyard pruning, planting, and harvest time.
The tours are done as a complete free service and blessing to the farmers and vineyard owners in Samaria. And through their friendship, the vineyard visits and business has increased by 750 percent.
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 very 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 they are often removed from that culture, so we 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, I learned a little 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
God the Vinedresser and Pruning
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 just for as much fruit as possible. But this is not the way of the vineyards. If the vinedresser looks simply for quantity over quality, all of the fruit will be average at best.
However, if he prunes wisely, there may be slightly less fruit, but it will grow in the best conditions. 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 receive nutrients and produce.
Branches that are growing far to the side or underneath the vine are trimmed, since they will have a harder time getting sunlight. It is also simply easier to harvest a branch that is growing straight up.
So, after pruning the underside and sides of the vine, few branches may grow close together. The vinedresser will keep the most upright and again, prune the others. The closer the branch is to the vine, the healthier and more fruitful it will be.
Likewise, if we are to bear fruit that the Father desires, the closer we are to Yeshua, the better.
The Life-giving Wind in Samaria
Once the gardener removes the dead branches, along with the underside and wayward ones, he considers the spacing of the remaining branches. The upright and fruitful ones need at least 4-5 inches from each other so as to allow the wind to pass through.
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.
Interestingly, in Hebrew, the word for wind and spirit are the same – ruach. Even if we have been pruned and produce quality fruit in our life, it 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.
Take the time to be alone and allow the Spirit to blow over you. 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 all around us.