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Prophecy, Vintners and Aliyah – Part One

– By Cliff Keller – 

Bring my sons and daughters…

Every soul who has left home to live in modern Israel has a story, often fascinating, always a bit mysterious. But the inevitable mysteries embedded in each account—a vanished barrier, a recurring dream, a sequence of seeming coincidences, a nagging longing for the Land, aren’t truly mysterious at all.

Israel’s ancient prophets did not foretell of a time during which, after much deliberation, the L‑rd’s chosen would decide to pull up stakes, leave behind their loved ones and abandon everything dear and familiar to immigrate to Asia Minor.

The decision to make Aliyah is not ours.

“Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isa 43:5-6)

Every modern immigrant’s story is Israel’s story, and Israel’s story is the work of G‑d.

How beautiful it will be!

The late Chuck Missler, an evangelical Christian, prominent Bible teacher and founder of the Koinonia House ministry in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was an engineer by education. Missler liked to compare the Bible to a hologram. As “every piece of [image] information is [found] on every inch of [a] hologram,” so too, Missler believed, is the Bible’s entire message embedded, inseparably, in every individual chapter and verse of the text.

Perhaps no segment of restored Israel’s immigrant population demonstrates Missler’s “holographic principle” more colorfully than the saga of Israel’s winemakers.

How good and beautiful it will be!” proclaimed the prophet Zechariah of the Restoration. “Grain will make the young men thrive and new wine the virgin women.”

But Zechariah’s vision of new wine and a new Israel seemed more than unlikely in the seventh century AD. The region was called Muslim “Palestine” and under an Islamic prohibition relegating Jews to second-class citizens and grapes to be grown to be eaten, not fermented. Except for a brief span during the Crusades, wine remained banned in the Land under Ottoman rule into the 19th century.

Wine is mentioned 183 times in the Tanach. Twenty mentions, by far the most of any book, are found in Isaiah who, though a prophet to Judah, had much to say about the collapse of the Northern Kingdom. Thirteen mentions are found in Jeremiah, who witnessed Judah’s final fall to Nebuchadnezzar II and Babylon. Two prophets whose ministries spanned a period that could justifiably be called the beginning of the end of ancient Israel.

The third most mentions, 12, are found in the Book of Genesis. What shall we conclude, if anything, from the fact that wine is mentioned most prominently in the Tanach during two important epochs, the beginning of time itself and the demise of ancient Israel?

They’ll come trembling from the west

Today there are almost 300 wineries in Israel, many of which have received worldwide recognition and prestigious awards. Perhaps you will recognize the names of the biggest; Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights, Tishbi, Dalton, Teperberg, Galil Mountain…but Israel is also home to about 250 small, “boutique” enterprises, each accessible, inviting, fascinating and worthwhile, most certainly because the wines they produce are exceptional but, more importantly, also because each vintner’s story—and you will assuredly hear many first hand when you visit—is no more or no less than an account of the Restoration itself.

When we immigrated to Israel, Marcia and I did not “hit the ground running” in terms of travel and touring. (After almost nine years here, for example, we still haven’t experienced the Negev or Eilat.) For a number of practical reasons, we simply settled in our house, a comfortable apartment in Jerusalem’s Rechavia, in unwitting compliance with the L‑rd’s promise…

“They will walk after Adonai. He will roar like a lion. Indeed, He will roar and the children will come trembling from the west. “They will come trembling like a bird out of Egypt, like a dove out of the land of Assyria, and I will settle them in their houses.” It is a declaration of Adonai.  (Hos 11:10-11)

Despite an admitted bit of trembling now and then, especially upon first landing here, we have, over time, made many visits to Tel Aviv, the Galilee, the Golan, Haifa and, of course, some truly fascinating venues in and around Jerusalem. On many occasions during those visits we were regaled by Israeli wine workers and boutique vintners.

In the next post, I’ll share some of their more interesting stories.