For the time they are a changin’

We are living in truly amazing times. In my understanding, nothing less then the beginning of the time described by the Prophet Yermiyahu (Jeremiah), “….in those days the House of Yehuda (Judah) will walk with the House of Yisrael (Israel) – Yermiyhu (Jeremiah) 3:18. Does that sound like a very bold assertion? Yes, for sure… but let me tell you what has been going on in Israel over the last number of years that causes me to feel that way.

It has only been approximately slightly more then 30 years that ‘Ephraim’ – Lost Israel among the nations, has begun to awake to their identity. Across the world, they have come to realize that they too are part (alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters) of Israel. Dispersed Israel, in the earliest stages of awakening to their identity; prior to their promised regathering and reunion.

Although, among the people involved, there is much excitement about this, they have generally been unknown to both Christians and Jews, worldwide. At least until recently…. The last few years have witnessed a surge in understanding of who these people are – not in the United States, but in Israel. This awareness has come, not from hearing about this movement, or reading about it. It hasn’t come from watching any DVD’s or a YouTube video. And, it has not come from hearing someone lecture about it. It has come, rather, from seeing and speaking to Ephraimites, in the streets, towns and cities of Israel.

Those in this movement who foolishly thought they could issue proclamations to the Government of Israel and make demands, thankfully appear to be only a small minority. Rather, actually being in Israel, participating in the Chagim (festivals), volunteering and being involved in society has made the difference, though. It has created an awareness of the very fact that Ephraim exists, and desires to come home and be reunited with their Jewish brothers and sisters. But, it has come from a position of love and mutual respect for the Reconciliation and Restoration of ALL of Israel.

It has come from Jewish people observing returning Ephraim march in Jerusalem’s Parade of All Nations. Held yearly during Sukkot, the parade has always featured a huge presence of Christian Zionists from around the world. They are sponsored by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an organization of Christians who love Israel. However, beginning in 2014 (for the first time ever!), and every year since, marching behind the banners of United 2 Restore have been Ephraimites from around the world! Coming from countries as diverse as Fiji, Canada, Sri Lanka, Holland, Papua, Germany, Singapore, Peru, South Africa and the United States, they have marched together; as Ephraim/Yosef (Joseph) returning. The banners they carried were of Judah & Ephraim coming together, and an illustration of the prophecy of Zechariah of the 10 men of the nations holding on to the Tzitzit of the Jewish man; with the caption from Sefer Bereshit (Book of Genesis), “It is my brothers that I am seeking…” said by Yosef (Joseph) 37:16.

It has been from ‘chance’ encounters with Israelis while standing in line at the grocery store, ordering a cup of coffee and other elements of daily interaction. But most importantly, the heart of wanting to be in Israel is what is most apparent. I keep hearing stories of seemingly, ‘divine appointments’ happening, again and again. And no, not just during Sukkot, Simchat Torah or Shabbat – but in every location, at all times. It has happened to me, numerous times – and many times with people who are personally unaware of the number of people involved in this movement. They are just there in Israel, because they feel they need to be. And when I share with them, my experiences with Ephraimites from around the world – they are stunned by the scope of this amazing movement. They often think they are among the first people who have been brought to this understanding. The movement of the return of Ephraim and the Restoration of ALL of Israel…

More and more Ephraimites are coming on volunteer programs; their college age children are applying to study for a semester or a year in Israeli universities. They are studying Hebrew in their communities around the world. They are reading legitimate Israeli news websites on a regular basis, and raising funds to support social welfare organizations in Israel. They are starting to feel and most importantly, to act as part of the nation of Israel. They and their communities, congregations and fellowships are wrestling with what exactly does it mean to be part of the Restoration of our Nation – the Nation of Israel. Not just part of a new denomination – but focusing on the national aspects, which their ancestors hadn’t even considered for more then 2,700 years…

We are on the verge of a whole new situation, an entirely new reality. One where people are laser focused on what unites us, rather then what could potentially divide us. One where we are driven by the concepts of mutual respect for the Reconcilliation and Restoration of ALL of Israel. One where we are truly United 2 Restore…. Yeah, as those song lyrics said, so long ago – “For the times, they are a changin’…”

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Traveling Down an Ancient Path

Typically when something happens to you, it’s easy not to see the potential effects it can have.  You just seem to miss it, because the weight of the event went unnoticed. Thus you don’t see the potential impact it will have on you, whether at that time or at some point in the future.  Events that appear to be random, really seem to you to be just that – random.  Many of us don’t always see or realize elements of the Divine Hand behind what occurs to us.

There are events, however, that at pivotal times in our lives become true turning points. Although it may take years before you realize that it was that particular event that had such dramatic impact upon your life because it often doesn’t manifest itself until much later in our lives.

Personally, I often think back to a meeting I attended in New York City (where I grew up) in April of 1994.  I had seen a seemingly insignificant mention in the middle of a page of a mediocre Jewish newspaper (which, ironically, I rarely even looked at) of an upcoming meeting of an organization dealing with the Lost Tribes of Israel.  I was stunned; although it was a subject that tugged at my heart – I didn’t know anyone that was actually talking about the Lost Tribes. And it was such a tiny little ‘blurb’ among lots of advertisements; I am still amazed to this day that I even noticed it.

I attended the meeting of the UIWU (United Israel World Union), and was deeply touched by the people that were there.  They were sincere lovers of Israel and the Torah (although, of course – with a wide variety of beliefs and opinions) and although not Jewish, they all believed themselves to be connected to the people of Israel.

It seems that all of these people studied the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), were attempting to live its precepts as best they possibly could and they had all left organized Christianity.  None of them lived in areas of the country where there were organized Jewish communities (something I was to find was the norm as I met groups of people like this in the future).  But, that wasn’t the biggest shock – what really hit me as a staggering blow was that all of these people believed themselves to be part of the people of Israel – descendants of the legendary, “Lost Tribes of Israel.”

“Staggering” doesn’t truly capture how I felt, I was flat out and absolutely blown away!  Of course, I always believed that the Lost Tribes would return, but just assumed they were hidden away, somewhere… in some other part of the world, far away from New York City, I was sure of that much! For anyone, especially who was not Jewish, to stand there and claim to be part of the Lost Sheep, part of the Northern Kingdom, was almost too much for me to process.

That time in my life, the mid-1990’s, was more than just a really fascinating time for me. It turns out that  this wasn’t the only group of people who thought like this, in fact, several movements were all developing, simultaneously and apparently independent of one another.  The Hebraic Roots of Christianity, the Bnei Noah (Noahides) and what people were calling, the “Torah Faith Movement.”  But, now, perhaps somewhat intertwined between them all,  was this “Lost Tribes of Israel” movement.

Their belief that they too were part of the people of Israel (PART of the people of Israel, in no way replacing the Jewish people – their long separated brothers and sisters) was nothing less than absolutely astounding to me.  After all, they weren’t from some isolated group in Africa or Asia, some hidden tribe in some remote mountain village, but rather, had come from among the American Christians.

It wasn’t until I went back and studied (repeatedly…) the Nevi’im – the Prophets of Israel, that I began to see what was going on.  The survivors of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also known as ‘Ephraim’ or ‘Yosef/Joseph’) who were taken into exile by Assyria were promised to be returned to the rest of the people of Israel.  And, they were to come from every corner of the earth after having been scattered into every nation by the Almighty Himself.

We, their Jewish brothers and sisters, had been expecting to find them hidden away in some far away land.  Throughout history, Jewish communities sent emissaries around the world, looking for Ephraim/Yosef, ‘hidden’ away as our Prophets had told us they would be.  Once Australia had been explored, I think we began to lose hope. The idea that at least some of them might have been ‘hidden in plain sight’ within the Church pews of the Christian Churches of various denominations, never entered my mind; or, as I was to find out – anyone else’s either.

This trek that they were on was one that they had begun alone – not knowing that there were others around the country (and, as they were to soon find out – around the world) that were coming to the very same understanding.    They were striving to return to what they often referred to as, the ‘Ancient Paths’ – as it was called by the Prophet Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 6:16.

Over time, as I began getting to know many of these people, I began to realize how this was a movement that was growing.  And it was growing all over the world, spontaneously.  Often, this understanding was coming strictly from the study of the Tanach. I had no idea of it at the time, but this ‘encounter’ at that meeting was to change the course of my very life.  I, in effect, began to walk with my Ephraimite brothers and sisters not as an Ephraimite, but as a brother. I would walk alongside them as they returned to our shared heritage.  No judging, never criticizing, but trying to support their ‘walk.’

What has been among the strangest of elements of this process, is that I always find myself the only traditionally believing Jewish person among them.  And to this day, I remain ‘there’ for them, without attempting to turn them into me.  Actually, by now, we should have all learned that the goal is not to have Ephraim become Judah OR, Judah become Ephraim.  We are to draw close to each other in mutual respect, for the reconciliation and Restoration of ALL of Israel knowing that if this movement is true, it will be the Almighty Himself who will make the two one in His hand.   I’ll be sharing exactly how I personally see this happening, so please come back to this site to see the latest articles being posted.

Since August, 2013, I have been traveling across the United States (I live in Israel) 3-4 times per year, speaking to Congregations and Fellowships of Ephraimites.   In case you didn’t know, I am a Licensed Tour Guide in Israel, specializing in reintroducing Ephraim to our ancient (and modern!) Homeland.  My presentations focus on various aspects of the Restoration of ALL of Israel and are totally unique in their approach, content and style.  If you are interested in inviting me to speak to your group, please email me at:  Kolyehuda.hanoch@gmail.com and please go to my website:  www.Kolyehuda.com And of course, if you ever come to Israel, allow me to take you on the adventure of your life!

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Embracing an earthquake in Florida

We all get to read history, and we all get to study the Prophets. But, how many people actually get to participate in making history? And, how many not only get to witness prophecy being fulfilled, but get to participate in it? Now, THAT is what occurred in Florida, at the B’ney Yosef North America Summit. For all intents and purposes, it was an earthquake of dramatic proportions. One, I believe will help lead to changing history.

Now, this isn’t the first time in history that people have thought about the reunification of Judah & Ephraim (which is THE predominant theme across all of the prophecy in the Tanach – the Hebrew Bible). It’s not even the first time that people have prayed fervently for it to happen, either. But, it IS the first time, that Ephraim/Yosef (Joseph), being awakened in the exile, has stood up for the unity of descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel…

B’ney Yosef North America is the outgrowth, in the Western Hemisphere, of the groundbreaking B’ney Yosef Congress that was held in May of 2015, right after Shavuot in Ariel, Israel. That event was a remarkable gathering of 135 representatives of from 12 different nations around the world. In less than a year since that initial Congress meeting, B’ney Yosef North America has formed and developed organically. From a handful of like-minded men and women, focused on the realization that they too, are part of Israel, it has It has been a grassroots movement from its inception.

And what they have been doing has very few precedents. Their focus has been on ‘rising up’ to address the challenge of recreating and restoring the national identity of the masses of scattered Israel, around the world. Avoiding the doctrinal issues that plagued those who have been awakened to who they truly are; they shifted the efforts from building new ‘denominations,’ to rather focusing on the restoration of the Nation of Israel.

For me, personally, this has been nothing less then the absolute beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 37 of the two sticks, becoming organized (which precedes both sticks becoming one in His hand). It was first in 1994, that I began meeting people who had been awakened to the realization that they were part of the people of Israel. But, the struggle has been to have people stop thinking of themselves as individuals on this particular path, or walk, or just being part of some new religious denomination.

This is the first, real effort, for Ephraim/Yosef (Joseph) to begin organizing themselves in such a manner. The B’ney Yosef National Shabbat initiative has already brought together many people from various congregations in the states of Georgia and South Carolina with many more planned in other states, as well. But, it’s not just coming together in mutual respect that is happening – even though, that – in and of itself, would be a major accomplishment.

It is the coming together to discuss what it means to reconstitute the national presence and identity that disappeared from the world stage more then 2,700 years ago, that is amazing. The various discussions which deal with not only what the implications of that are, but, how to actually begin the preparation for it and its implementation. The plans to create an Ephramite National Fund to deal with the financial aspects, the plans to learn Hebrew and to train and prepare the younger generation. Those are only a few of the topics that have come up for consideration; and so much more…

As the only traditionally believing Jewish person in attendance, it generated emotions in me that are hard to capture in mere words. It was truly being able to witness what had been words of prophecy for thousands of years becoming real, right in front of my eyes. For many years I have prayed, three times a day for the ingathering of the exiles – but, to actually SEE it begin to happen? Well, that is more then I ever could have dreamed of… I just kept asking what I had ever done to deserve to have been able to be a witness to all of this…

And, of course – this is merely what is happening in North America. The European B’ney Yosef has already had their meeting, and other affiliated groups are in formation around the world. This is NOT an “American movement,” but, rather – just the branch of it, on this continent. People are being ‘called’ to it, and are being called out of the national identities that they were raised within.

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:6 tells us of the promise: “…I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, give up and to the south, keep not back.” Well, all who attended the B’ney Yosef Summit saw that begin to be fulfilled. Now is the time to get involved; now is the time to stand up and return to your heritage. This is a call to action, not just a nice statement. It is the time to get involved. Today, not tomorrow…

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On a Mission in the Chosen Land

In my own life, it played out a little differently. From my teenage years on, I was totally committed to living in Israel and taking an activist, even militant, approach to help and protect Jewish people!

Many people wander through their entire lives wondering exactly what their mission on this earth should have been. Beyond just daily life (paying bills, going to parent-teacher conferences), they spend time wondering what their reason, or their purpose might have been. Did they even have a purpose beyond what they had before them? Not that people necessarily go out and search for that special ‘something’ they should be doing. After all, the idea that one might immerse himself in prayer to find that direction is a ‘foreign’ thought for most people. Yet many continue to wonder, what could they have been doing?

In some cases, it is almost like they expected to find that recorded message, like at the start of the old Mission Impossible television show. You remember, “…your mission…should you choose to accept it…” Yet, sometimes, the answer to what you need to be doing smacks you right on the side of the head. Sometimes, it seems so vague or implausible that you just ignore it; or at least, you try to. Maybe it is a fleeting thought (or so you think at the time), or almost a fantasy type daydream. Which people often dismiss with a, “What?! ME, do that?!?”

In my own life, it played out a little differently. From my teenage years on, I was totally committed to living in Israel and taking an activist, even militant, approach to help and protect Jewish people (they were the only people of Israel that I knew of at that time; learning different was going to be a big shock) anywhere around the world.

The moving to Israel part, which was clearly part of my “mission,” took much longer then I had anticipated (an interesting story, in and of itself – but I will leave that one for another day). However, the activism began right away. This was the 1970’s, and every ethnic, racial and religious group had its ‘activist’ faction. Plus, we were going to stand up for oppressed Jews anywhere in world. By the time I was 20 years old, I had already been arrested on three different continents on behalf of fulfilling (at least part of) my ‘mission’ in life.’ This included me staging a sit-in in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, I was soon to learn that battling on behalf of my people was only part of my mission. In a similar way, I learned that the Jewish people were not the only people of Israel, but we too, were a part of all of Israel.

It was not until April of 1994, that I began meeting people who, although they were not Jewish, told me that they, too, were part of Israel. They believed themselves to be descendants of the Ephraim/Yosef (Joseph) – the so-called, “Lost Tribes of Israel.” It took me a while to realize that they were never really lost, merely hidden as part of their punishment.

Okay, well, then I realized very quickly that part of my “mission” was to obviously do whatever I could for these people, who, also were part of Israel. My experiences with this part of my life’s purpose could actually fill an entire book. This is probably the reason that I AM writing one about all these ‘adventures!’ For the sake of brevity, I will describe an intense period of time that lasted more than twenty years, in just a few short sentences.

I soon realized that despite our outward differences, we were indeed family; brothers and sisters… and that for some unknown reason, we had all been ‘awakened’ to this knowledge. An understanding that we were to be part of the reunification of Judah & Ephraim, the Restoration of ALL of Israel – which the Prophets of Israel had promised.

What the ‘awakening’ needed at that time (and is still in need to this very day) was for those who understood themselves to be part of Israel to build bridges amongst ourselves. Yeah, I know, easier said than done, right? Thankfully, at this point, my mission was clarified even further, I had clear direction. Perhaps because of my finally “getting it,” I was given the bracha (blessing) of being able to go on Aliyah – to move to Israel.

And, as irrational as it sounds, I thought that by being in Israel, and being prepared to reach out to my brothers and sisters that I would then, FINALLY, be working to complete my ‘mission.’ However, I was still missing a key element in what I, personally, was supposed to do. Surprisingly, it had to do with something I least expected – a new career. As an Oleh (new immigrant) to Israel, I began touring as much of this amazing country as I possibly could. Then it hit me – I would become a Tour Guide.

I certainly did not understand how competitive, grueling, and difficult the necessary courses would be. I wasn’t taking them to simply get a job – rather, who else would be prepared to show Ephraim their homeland once again, if not me? Who else had spent as many years as I had, getting to know their hearts and building bonds that will last a lifetime? For two years, I struggled to learn (in Hebrew mind you) all that I needed to know so that I might pass the stringent national licensing exams.

It was only then, being able to show my brothers and sisters OUR homeland that I realized that I had finally reached the point of understanding what my mission actually was. To be an activist on behalf of ALL of Israel, build bridges and relationships AND to be able to help Ephraim reconnect to Israel. After all, even though Ephraim didn’t fully understand this yet, this was where ‘our’ past was and our future certainly is. All that is before us, it is ALL about ‘connecting’ – people don’t simply choose to come to Israel – they are called to come. And part of Ephraim’s waking up mission is to reconnect with the Land.

Which is why, in partnership with Mike Clayton, an outstanding Torah teacher (see his website: www.joinedtohashem.org ), we now have the Connect to Israel Tour. It is the ultimate Israel experience, and is unlike any other tour to Israel. It is definitely not the standard, “go see the holy sites” type program, at all. It is designed to have all 11 days and 10 nights focused on connecting you with Israel, both ancient and modern; and connecting you with the Jewish people – your brothers and sisters.

We spend the first two full days in Shomron (Samaria) – the backbone of Biblical Israel. Taking you to places most people visiting Israel never even dream of seeing. You not only get to experience the most significant sites that you’ve only read about in the Bible, but are taken there by both Judah & Ephraim… And, unlike other tours, you will get to meet many of your Jewish brothers and sisters, in their towns and villages – real people in real life situations. Each tour, for me personally, is more exciting than the last because I get to see people like you build relationship with ‘family’ you didn’t even know you had!

We have already had two of these incredible tours – in 2014 and 2015. And now – the best one yet is coming up this Fall and you won’t want to miss it! We are also looking into scheduling tours in the early Spring, too. Seating is very limited – we only take 35 people, to enhance the quality of the guiding experience and to enable maximum interaction for you with both Mike and I.

Please go to my website: ( www.Kolyehuda.com ) and click on Upcoming Tours for all the details, including an itinerary and a registration form. There has never been a better or more important time to come to Israel. Join us for an experience that will change your life, forever. But, you do have to act soon if you want to avoid being closed out. If you’re feeling drawn to come, this time that we will spend together will hopefully open up the Divine appointments that very well might clarify YOUR mission in life. Of course, that is… only if you ‘choose to accept it!’

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Time for a Revolution for Restoration

We are to draw closer to each other, to acknowledge each other for what we are – family, separated a very long time ago. We need to begin working together, but only within the framework of mutual respect – with neither of us trying to change the other one.

What if there was a ‘secret’ way to understand the eternal messages of the Prophets of Israel? You know, a timeless message to countless people, ‘ hidden’ in the text; by HaShem – by God, Himself, to His people. But, one that was ‘hidden’ in plain sight – would you want to know about it? Would you want to understand things the way they’re supposed to be understood? Be careful what you wish for – it may come true…

For me personally, a moment like that happened back in April 1994. It was then that I began meeting people who told me that they believed that they were part of the people of Israel. Not Jewish, they had come to the feeling/belief/understanding that they too were part of Israel – descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Yes, the fabled, “Ten Lost Tribes.”

Yeah, you heard right…How is that even possible, right? Well, first let’s start at what we know. Let’s go back to the glory years of the United Kingdom of Israel under the leadership of the House of David. King David followed by his son – King Shlomo (Solomon). With Solomon’s death, due to the mismanagement of his son Rechavam (Rehoboam), the kingdom split into two. Rehoboam’s was comprised of the tribes of Yehuda (Judah) and Binyamin (Benjamin) (along with Levi). The kingdom was in the area from Bet El (slightly north of Jerusalem) and all the area south; that was the Kingdom of Judah. The rival kingdom comprised of the remaining 10 tribes was led by Yeravam (Jeroboam). It comprised the territory north of Judah and was called the Kingdom of Israel (later referred to as, Ephraim – after the largest tribe which composed the new kingdom).

Jeroboam forced his people to stop going to the Temple in Jerusalem and built calves for them to worship instead. The split within our nation was truly final…Our one people had become two separate nations – Judah and Ephraim. This gulf between our formerly one people, led to wars, hatred and competing alliances with foreign powers. The Northern Kingdom slid into a life of idolatry, and the die was cast – they were to be punished for their sins.

The Assyrians attacked and destroyed the Kingdom of Israel in the year 722 BCE – carrying the surviving population off into exile. And from there, they seem to have disappeared from the pages of history – mentioned only from time to time – a whisper in history – perhaps merely a fable. But, the tribes didn’t disappear – they were dispersed throughout the world, to the corners of the earth – “…then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, who caused them to be led into exile among the nations…” Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 39:28. They were destined to forget their identity, “…for you are not my people…” Hoshea (Hosea) 1:9. But they never were actually lost – because Avinu Sh’bashamyim – our Father in heaven never loses anything or anyone – rather they were hidden away; put aside.

But the promise of their return and reunification with their brothers and sisters is a theme that is consistent throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible). We read in Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 32:41 that, “…and I will truly plant them in this land, with My whole heart and with My whole soul.” In fact, it is the one single time in the entire Tanach where HaShem (God) that He will do something with ALL of His heart and soul. This is the only instance where HaShem promises to do anything with His whole heart and whole soul. The restoration of His people is that important. So, it’s clear that Ephraim (also referred to in Scripture as Israel, Samaria, or Joseph) and Judah WILL reunite, that the entire people of Israel will be RESTORED. “Fear not: for I am with thee; I will bring your seed from the east, and gather them from the west; I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, keep not back: bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth…” Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:5-6.
What we weren’t given was a roadmap of where the exiled Israelites were hidden away and what they would actually “look like.”

Throughout recorded history, representatives of the Jewish communities traveled the globe in search of their “lost” brothers and sisters of Ephraim. It was rumored that they were hidden behind some vast mountain ranges or the mystical river, Sambatyon. A great warrior kingdom that was one day going to be reunited with the Jewish people – the known part of the people of Israel. The search went on, across the known world, until the age of exploration was over. At that point, when even Australia was explored, it was assumed by some that the tribes were truly lost – never to be returned. But God Himself does not make mistakes and when He promises to return and restore His people – He means it!

But, then, within the last few decades, a phenomenom has begun occurring worldwide – where people have begun been awakened to the understanding that they are part of His hidden people – part of Ephraim/Israel. This has been a totally spontaneous awakening – not caused by hearing the same teachings, reading the same books or watching the same DVD’s. It has only been His divine inspiration that has enabled people to reach this understanding; this insight. People have walked away from the churches they grew up in, the family holiday traditions they were raised with and even from family relationships. When this first began occurring during the 1990’s it was at the same time of the rise of the Christian Zionist. Bnai Noah (Noahides) and Hebraic Roots movements as well. No one quite knew what to make of these people, let alone who they were. This movement is sometimes referred to as the “Two House Movement.” A reference to the two Houses of Ephraim and Judah. “…and I will restore you from your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from the places I have driven you…” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 29:14. Two Houses that were to become one, once again.

They have been led to study and begin to lead a life of Torah and are having their hearts drawn to the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. It has almost been like people who have been locked away, trapped in darkness, who have come streaming into the bright light. They are shaking off more than 2,700 years of exile; they realize that they don’t belong to the world that they have been part of for their entire life…People who otherwise would have gone through their entire lives as part of some Christian denomination, were now driven to something else. Instead of thinking that they were part of just some denomination, they began to think of themselves as being part of a Nation… the Nation of Israel.

Can you even imagine what was going through their minds, let alone those of their relatives, friends and Church buddies? They thought these people were delusional, misguided or perhaps, “Jewish wannabees.” How could they even begin to understand the clear path to understanding Scripture that these people now had? That they were now able to understand key principles of faith that people had told them were no longer to be observed? You know, the Sabbath (Fri night – Sat night), Kosher food laws, the very Torah itself! Instead of it all being “done away with” – rather, it was actually to be what they were to be basing their lives upon.

How could they think that they were actually part of Israel, after having been cast into exile 2,700 years ago? IF they had been part of Israel, once upon a time, how could they think they would be reunited, returned, restored? “For, lo, I will command, I will sift the house of Yisrael among all the nations, as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Amos 9:9 Listen, we don’t believe in a God who can’t keep His promises, right? So, we really shouldn’t be surprised that this entire, amazing reawakening is occurring. But we are, because it’s not just happening within a ‘foreign’ people in some distant land. It’s happening to that person in the mirror; it’s happening to us…
Instead of being hidden away in some far away place, we’re the witness to the ultimate in Divine irony. No, Avinu Sh’bashamayim – our Father in Heaven didn’t hide Ephraim/Joseph/Israel/Samaria behind some mountains somewhere. He hid His (temporarily…) exiled people right in plain sight – some of them in Church pews around the world… the one place that your Jewish brothers and sisters never would have thought of looking for you…Hidden away until He decided that their time of punishment was over. The time when they would be ready to accept their correction. Yes, that time when they were once again to be restored as part of His people. Yes, when He would restore ALL of His people. “And I will strengthen the house of Yehuda (Judah), and I will save the house of Yosef (Joseph), and I will bring them back again for I have had mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: and their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.” Zecharya (Zechariah) 10:6-7

But, wait a moment – how come no one had come to this realization sooner, or recognized that we were from the same family? Well, it obviously wasn’t time yet; His time for ending the exile of part of His people. But, it also is very much like the story of Yosef – Joseph. Remember, Joseph has been sold into slavery in Egypt and through an amazing series of events becomes the second most powerful man in that country. He hasn’t seen his brothers since their treachery, but here they are, once again, in Egypt, desperate for food. Now he knows who they are – but they are clueless to Joseph’s identity. Remember, he doesn’t look like they do, he’s dressed like an Egyptian. His hair is cut in the style of the Egyptian ruling class. He speaks like an Egyptian and after all – he’s the 2nd in command of Egypt! They would never ever even think that he could be their brother – not the way he looks, acts and sounds, right? And that’s just like us, today… You’re looking at the Jewish people, who are your brothers and sisters, and we don’t act like you thought we would. And we’re looking at you and frankly, you’re not looking and sounding like we thought you would be, either…but, for whatever reason, that is part of His plan, too…

But this process of our reunification is not quite as simple as it sounds, is it? Over the last several thousand years, our one nation, which became two people has morphed over time into two distinct religious groups. Two groups which appear to have contradictory views; so, which one is it going to be? Which one of our two constituent parts has to give up their beliefs in order to become the other one, so we can join together to be reunited, once again? Well, that’s just it, we don’t change…we accept each other as we are – the way HaShem made us. And, we deal with each other with mutual respect; not trying to change each other into a clone of who we are, and wheat we believe. Remember, when Judah is forced to become Joseph, or when Joseph is forced to become Judah – then we cease being who we were put on the earth to be. We each have a function, and depend upon each other – “And the house of Yaakov shall be fire and the house of Yosef flame…” Ovadya (Obadiah) 1:18

Where do we look for an answer to that question? Well, to Scripture, of course! We find our answer in the following prophecy that so many of us are familiar with: “Behold I will take the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Yisrael, his companions, and will put them and it together with the stick of Yehuda to form one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.” Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 37:19 You see, we can only become one again, in His hand…it is up to HaShem to sort out any religious differences between us; we are His people, after all. It is not for each of us to try to change or “correct” each other – that is what He promises He will do: “…but correct thee in due measure.” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 46:28 Think of it this way, how well does it work in any family when siblings attempt to ”correct” each other? It doesn’t; that’s what the father is for…And so too, with Avinu Malkenu – Our Father, Our King.

We are to draw closer to each other, to acknowledge each other for what we are – family, separated a very long time ago. We need to begin working together, but only within the framework of mutual respect – with neither of us trying to change the other one. Our focus needs to be on what we have in common – which is FAR greater than anything that could potentially divide us – the Torah of Israel, the land of Israel and the people of Israel – the Jewish people AND Ephraim. This is where we start. We are told of a time when, “In those days the house of Yehuda shall walk with the house of Yisrael…” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 3:18. I believe that ‘those days’ are NOW! Are YOU ready to walk together?
(originally published in GTN – Gathering the Nations magazine’s Preview Issue as:The Time for Restoration has Begun)

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On the ‘eve of destruction?’

“Eastern world, it is exploding, violence flarin’, bullets loadin’…” And so starts a song that is one of my personal favorites. It tells of a world falling apart and on the brink of nuclear war; a war which would destroy life as we know it.

The lyrics speak of of the racism, hatred, and intolerance that tears our society apart. Most of all, it expresses the fear we all feel of what is about to happen to our world… Truly a song for our times, don’t you think? A day doesn’t go by without us hearing about yet another tragedy. Wars, natural disasters (of every type imaginable), an economic collapse and the disintegration of our society and its values – and it’s all there in this one song.

Is there anything that we’re not worried about? If it’s not some rumor of an asteroid hitting, resulting in horrific tsunamis (East Coast) then it’s an earthquake (or two!), resulting in tsunamis destroying Washington and Oregon, or a perennial disaster favorite – California, falling into the sea. Is it animals supposedly fleeing Yellowstone Park? Maybe it’s tied in with fears of a One World Order, one currency for North America or the latest rumors of United Nations troops hiding in the U.S. preparing to take away guns from American citizens

Is it because the Shmitta (7th year Sabbatical year when the ground in Israel is commanded to be left fallow) ended this Rosh Hashana (Yom Teruah) – the New Year? Is it because, once again, on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) blood red moons appeared? To many, that is a truly ominous sign… This song could almost be the anthem of our days, the topics seemingly ripped from today’s headlines. However, though – this song, “Eve of Destruction,” comes from 1965; not 2015.

It was written by Barry McGuire in July, 1965 and dealt with the burning issues of the time – all the fear and the challenges of a
world facing destruction. Well, it’s now fifty years later and we’re still facing those same issues, although people seem to think that this time it’s totally unique.

How should a person of faith view today’s news and the anxiety of their family and friends? People are staring up at the sky, looking for blood red moons, asteroids and other celestial bodies. But, how does the God of Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) view all of this? Should we be focused on the heavens and be looking for signs to guide out daily behavior? Our beloved Avinu Sh’bashamayim (Father in Heaven) cautions us specifically, through his prophet: “ Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel: thus says the Lord, learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them…” Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 10: 1-2

Although this seems like a pretty clear warning to me, there are those who count themselves among the children of Israel today who are filled with panic. Instead of focusing on the way we should be living our lives, based upon our faith in God, Himself, we become focused instead on the latest conspiracy theory…Instead of living a life filled with Emuna (faith) in our God, we instead quake at the all the rumors that people keep shoveling in our direction. We really need to begin asking ourselves – do we believe in a God that can deliver upon his promises, or one that can not? For those reading this article, I think you’ll agree with me – we believe He can do anything, and will live up to those promises He has made. And He repeatedly urges us (throughout Scripture) to return to Him and to the path he has set out for us.

Instead, the path people seem to be seeking leads them to the mountains, swamps, deserted areas, anywhere they can escape from the people who should be the ones comprising their communities. Communities where children will be raised to be loyal to the One Living God and where, as a community, people can begin growing in knowledge of HaShem’s (God’s) path – the one He has directed us to follow. But, shouldn’t we be scared, shouldn’t we begin running away, you’re asked? Tehillim (Psalms) 27:5 tells us, “For in the day of evil He shall hide me in His pavilion.”

Yes, we should always be prepared for any kind of disaster – several days of bottled water, food a first aid kit, etc. But, do we think that the Lord brought us to this point, drew us into His understanding to let us be swept away in some catastrophe that he will allow to be visited upon this planet? “Were it not that I believed I should see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the living…” Tehillim 27:14 We ARE a people of emuna/faith, we must believe in the promises that He has made.

And we are assured that this emuna/faith will be rewarded. We are told NOT to fear: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: For the Lord your God, He it is that goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 31:6

And not only not to fear, but to trust in Him, and it’s repeated: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Yehoshua (Joshua) 1:9

The only instance in the entire Tanach (Hebrew Bible, what some still mistakenly refer to as, the “Old Testament”) when HaShem promises to do something with ALL of His heart and might is to restore His people. “…And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will truly plant them in this land with My whole heart and with My whole soul.” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 32:41 More than one hundred references speak of the restoration of ALL of Israel, a promise that is consistent throughout Scripture and is  undeniable.

“I will surely assemble, O Yaakov (Jacob), all of you; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.” Micah 2:12

“And I will strengthen the house of Yehuda (Judah), and I will save the house of Yosef (Joseph).” Zechariah 10:6

“Fear not: for I am with you; for I am with you; I will bring your seed from the east, and gather them from the west; I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth…” Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:5-6

It doesn’t matter how it is that you feel you’re connected with the people of Israel – whether you are part of either the House of Yehuda (Judah) or the House of Ephraim (Joseph) or the “companions” of both houses, spoken about in Yehezel (Ezekiel) chapter 37. Or, if you feel you are ‘spiritually’ connected to the people of Israel (spiritual DNA?) or believe you are “grafted” into the people, these promises apply to all of us…

“Thus says the Lord God; Behold, I will save My people from the east country, and from the west country…” Zechariah 8:8

“…I will sift the house of Yisrael (Israel) among all nations, as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Amos 9:9 When He is ready to call us home, He will not forget us; any of us…and, that process of return has already begun.

And there is no clearer proof of this promised restoration of His people then in the rebirth of the Modern State of Israel. “Therefore say, Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the Land of Israel.” Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 11:17 And indeed, as improbable as it seemed, particularly coming after the Shoah (Holocaust). “Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born in one moment?” Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:8

No where else in the entire world is there a nation that has the same name, speaks the same language, has the same faith and lives in the same land as it did 3,000 years ago – ONLY in Israel… As Jewish people from all over the world have begun to return home, it has raised hopes and expectations all over the world among those who love Israel and long to be connected to it. “‘But days are coming, says the Lord, when it shall no more be said, As the Lord lives, that brought brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt; but, as the Lord lives, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands into which He had exiled them: And I will bring them back to their land that I gave to their fathers.” Jeremiah 16:14-15

“‘And I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries into which I have driven them, and will bring them back to their folds; and they will be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them: and they will fear no more and not be dismayed, neither will any be lacking says the Lord.”

Behold days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise a David , a righteous offshoot, and he will reign as king and prosper, and will execute justice and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell safely.

Behold days are coming, says the Lord, when they will no more say, As the Lord lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but as the Lord lives, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel, out of the north country and from all the countries into which I have driven them and they will dwell in their own land.” Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 23:3-8
Do we believe in a God that fulfills His promises, or not?
We in Israel get to see Biblical prophecy being fulfilled on a daily basis – the wasteland that had been Israel (as described so eloquently by Mark Twain who visited the Land of Israel in 1867) has been transformed into a gorgeous, vibrant Land, blossoming with produce of all kinds. Just as He had promised it would, once His children began returning HOME. When you taste Gold Medal award winning Israeli wine, or date honey (the original honey of the Bible) you truly begin to actually taste the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy!

“This is what the Lord of Hosts says: Old men and old women will yet again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem and every man with his staff in his hand. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. ” Zechariah 8:4-5

Come to Israel, and you can see this with your own eyes!

This is not the first time that people of faith have been put to the test, as the world we know seems to be teetering on the edge. This is not a time for running and hiding, but rather for building up, a time for planting not uprooting a time for embracing not for shunning. A time for faith, not fear…faith in our God and His promises.

It is a time for us to return to Him and to His path; to connect even deeper with His Chosen Land – Israel and all of it’s people. It is a time to visit Israel, buy Israeli products, support Israel in every way you can and continue to build and strengthen your communities. “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him; and He will bring it to pass.” Tehillim (Psalms) 37:5

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Returning to the Land

Much of life is centered around being able to move successfully from one situation/set of experiences to another. Managing those transitions effectively will usually determine how well a person gets to accomplish their goals. In the words of Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) – ” A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.” And I now stand at one of those ‘transitional’ junctures…

After an extraordinary month traveling around the US and meeting with the most amazing people, it is time for me to finish packing and go to JFK, for my flight home. These have been a “time for planting” – seeds of acceptance and welcome…a “time for healing…” It has been a “time for speaking” and a “time for embracing.” Those times for “shunning” are over, but most of all, it has become a “time of love.” With God’s help, I will be returning at the end of April for a brief trip to continue sharing that message.

The focus of our lives needs to be on restoration, NOT recrimination. On building, not trying to tear down. And on acceptance and embracing our diversity. Our strength comes FROM our diversity, rather then despite it. At home, it is time to start that blog, produce more videos, and yes – finish those books I’ve been writing. And of course – back to guiding, in our beloved Eretz Yisrael. Hey – anyone you know looking for a good tour guide?

Wishing y’all love & hugs as I return to the Chosen Land,

Hanoch

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