Let the Foreigner Come I

Yisrael Medad,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Yisrael Medad
I am a resident of Shiloh, with my wife and children, and now grandchildren, since 1981, having come on Aliyah in 1970. I have served in a volunteer capacity as a Yesha Council spokesperson, twice a member of Amana's secretariat, Benjamin Regional Council plenum member and mayor of Shiloh. I was a parliamentary aide for Geula Cohen and two other MKs, an advisor to a Minister, vice-chairman and executive director of Israel's Media Watch and was Information and Content Resource coordinator for the Begin Heritage Center. I am now Deputy Editor of the critical edition in anthology of Jabotinsky's writing in English.

                                          The following essay is presented in two parts because of its length.

                                                                             The second part is here.

LET THE FOREIGNER COME

By Yisrael Medad

The activities of certain Christian pro-Israel/Zionism groups, foremost among them HaYovel*, to assist the farmers of Judea and Samaria has caused quite a negative reaction among Jews opposed to Christian cooperative ventures, most recently here and here, and this event.  The following is an expanded reworking of an article I published in Hebrew on the issue.

The remarkable historical development for the past several centuries has been that the Jewish people, while still being persecuted by Christians, are being, in a parallel development, assisted by Christians to realize the ancient dream of the ‘return to Zion’, a process they term as the “Restoration”, and thereby accomplish the establishment of the Jewish national home in Israel. This is true since the days of Sir Henry Finch who, in 1621, wrote his “The World's Great Restauration, or Calling of the Jews”, and Napoleon, Lord Shaftesbury and Laurence Oliphant (who wrote the Land of Gilead) including Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov and his conversations in 1827 with the convert Joseph Wolf to promote diplomacy with the British Consulate in Jerusalem on to Lord Balfour and his declaration and until the present day.

At the present, the help is being expressed at the highest levels in the corridors of governments, foreign ministries, Houses of Parliament and Congresses and on the ground, literally, in acts iof voluntary labor in the vineyards and orchards in the hills of Judea and Samaria, and, in the words of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed:

“In modern times, we have witnessed increased support for Israel among evangelical Christians…They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel…  "Christians fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah”, September 18, 2013.

Are we at a crossroads that requires a new understanding of the period we are in, a reality that demands a new paradigm of cooperation, one based on Biblical sources?

One new approach is this

“We’re not just talking about Christians wanting to help Jews out of solidarity or charity,” Hazony said. “We are talking about the dominant faith of Western civilization saying: ‘The Jews have something to give us, something that we need.’ This is not something that appears in the old playbook for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

In relation to that, let’s recall that Maimonides in his Responsa, 148, permits teaching Torah to Bible-believing Christians because “they could return to the correct path” (is there an echo of "Tshuva" in that?).  As the verse in Isaiah 27:6 outlines, there are three stages. First in future days, Yaakov will take root, and then Israel will flourish and then the whole world will benefit from those blessings we enjoy.  There is, however, another approach.

Coming Closer to Holiness

The new attitude to these Christians should not be one that is shunning in its character, even if there is a justified suspicion that behind this phenomenon may be a desire to exploit our innocence as well as the historical experience of Church-generated anti-Semitism, the killing of Jews and forced conversions. That memory cannot be ignored. On the one hand, we must be wary of those whose intention is to attach themselves with the purpose of luring converts to Christianity. In my experience, volunteer agricultural activities in Yesha are not in that category, and certainly no Jewish residents were proselytized over the many years that these efforts have been conducted.  On the other hand, we need to recognize that the source of their enthusiasm, at this point stil within their Christain frame of reference, is to help in fulfilling our Biblical prophecies as regards the redemption process.

The foreign volunteers come to us, to the communities of Judea and Samaria, to our orchards. They engage in pruning and planting and harvesting. They are involved in many tasks of manual labor jobs instead of "Ishmael", in place of Thais, and also in the work places where Jews do not consider, to our shame, cultivating a worthy enough profession. They also contribute and help us in our diplomatic, political and information struggles. They are impressed with biblical truth and the contemporary reality of Yesha and feel they must be part of it.

Do our own Biblical, Talmudic and Rabbinic sources contain relevant material that we can consult to provide us insights? Yes. King Solomon was sympathetic and considerate:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name's sake-- for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy mighty hand, and of Thine outstretched arm--when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger called to Thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as doth Thy people Israel, and that they may know that Thy name is called upon this house which I have built. (I Kings 8:41-43)

The late 19th century commentator, the Malbim, Meïr Leibush Weiser, notes - and his desc‎ription echoes to our own day - that even though the foreigner is in an estranged place which is “unworthy" from a Jewish religious perspective, nevertheless and despite this even, Solomon asks of God to listen and pay attention to him:

The reason for his ‘coming’ is because it has become known among them that God is great and provides and He draws up the battle lines [ ... ] it is well worthwhile to listen to him despite his lack of doing t’shuvah [ ... ] even though his supplication is for something unworthy of itself…”.


During our history, the non-Jew "came" and he was afforded a favorable treatment. Examples include Jethro ("And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God; …And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God” Exodus 18:5;12) , Naaman ("So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha” II Kings 5:8) and, at the time of redemption, many persons from all nations will come to Jerusalem ("And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established…and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…and we will walk in His paths’", Isaiah 2:2-3).  Some may claim that a conversion process preceded this. 

It is, however, worthy to note that Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, in illustrating his two concepts of tzaddik, in his Kedushat Levi on the portion of Noah, describes the preferred one who “who worships the Creator and causes to wicked to return to also being worshippers of the Creator just as Avraham would engage in conversion”. Judaism began as a conversionary religion and we will probably reach to the future stage of Redemption that way but it is not clear that that is at all supported by the texts in all the examples I include.

The Foreigner is Part of Redemption

In Chapter 61 of Isaiah, verses 1-5, we read:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…to bring good tidings…To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion…And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall renew the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers”.

It seems quite clear that the prophecy relating to the period when the Land of Israel is being reconstituted, from its towns to its fields, non-Jews will be involved, engaged in the labor of strengthening our hold on the land.  The Malbim extends our interpretation by noting that the “stranger” will be called a ‘son of the city’ “even if he is from another nation” and that idol worshippers will provide the needs of the children of Israel.  I find it difficult not to understand the meaning of this verse, as with others, that there surely will be a relationship of dependence on the work and labor of non-Jews.  The verse is employed in the Talmud, Tractate Berachot 35B, by R. Simeon b. Yohai whose opinion is that is it possible for Israel to plough, sow and reap and yet still be able to study Torah and replies:

Is that possible?...No; but when Israel perform the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others

The establishment of Israel in 1948, and the return of Israel to the historic homeland of the Jewish people following the Six-Days War in 1967 including regions that were stolen, represents a cognitive challenge, as well as practical, ideological and theological one, for the Jewish people and not solely for Jews. The development and empowerment of the people residing in Zion, the victories in its wars and its economic, scientific and social achievements pose for the non-Jews not only the question "Who is the Jewish people" but also "Who are we?".

According to the vision of our prophets as we have seen, the reality of redemption also includes the coming of the strangers, first to help us and support us and then to recognize the best way to a belief in God and His word. So prophesizes the Prophet: "And the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory; and thou shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall mark out.” (Isaiah 62:2), as well as “And aliens shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favor have I had compassion on thee…men may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations, and their kings in procession.  For that nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” (Isaiah 60:10-12)

Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zhitomir, the author of “The Light That Shines”, a student of the Maggid of Mezrich who immigrated to Eretz-Yisrael in 1798 (and in Haifa met Rabbi Nachman who was at that time in the country), interprets the verse in Zephaniah 3:9, "For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD" with the radical understanding that the Jewish people must strengthen itself and speak forthrightly in a voice full of holiness, and so bring even the non-Jews to the sacredness:



“We can call to all, even the nations of the world, to bring them closer to the sacred [ ... ] to extract from out of them their holy sparks, to bring them closer to the holy and in particular in the future when the level of attainment ability increases in the world from the youngest to the oldest. Then I will turn to the nations to turn them from bad to good, as recalled in the verse "until Shiloh comes" and such a pure language causes “unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be" that is, to assemble the nations to bring them close to the sacred [...] for If Israel has the clear and sacred language they then can collect the sacred sparks within them that sustain them.”

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*

The results of the 2014 harvest labor of Hayovel volunteers was 438 tons of grapes which should produce at least 258,000 bottles of wine.  Since 2004, they harvested over 2000 tons of grapes and olives which represents 156,000 work hours, saving labor costs of $1,100,000.