B'ney Yosef National Congress
The first B'ney Yosef National Congress was completed last week and too many incredible things happened to be able to reasonably encapsulate them in one Newsletter. Therefore, my initial report will be an overview of the truly tremendous atmosphere of both the Congress and the Land. There will also be a section of my own personal experiences as well as a proposed method of preparation for the next Congress, HaShem willing. We will also include an update from Angus and Batya. There will be more specific details in Herald Newsletters to come. More personal contributions and further details on the next Congress will be available as well.
Joshua and Caleb "said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, 'The land, which we passed through to spy it out,
is an exceedingly good land'"
(Numbers 14:7, ESV).
A Good Report
Much can be said about the story of Israel's twelve spies. We can dwell on the faith of Joshua and Caleb or we can go on about the disbelief of the other ten. What we should keep in mind is not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. Of course, it is fitting that the two tribes that got it right back then were from the trivbes of Judah and Ephraim. It is likewise fitting that this First Ephraimite National Congress would have both of those tribes represented. In a spirit of true unity, all those who attended shared together in a truly fruitful gathering.
To say that this was anything less than a miraculous event would be selling it short. Over 150 participants from around the world convened in a hotel that has survived two bombings and financially crippling Intifada. Testimonies from all the representatives of the provision that had made their trips possible poured in. Most people felt called to come, but lacked the resources to do so. One by one, the stories told seemed very similar. Friends, congregations, or sometimes strangers found a way to lift up each person and provide whatever was required. So many found their way by grace. The few that could make it very early noticed that there was something special about the group that was coming together. As the hotel filled, there was a common theme. It was not by design or by our own meager efforts, but there was a palpable unity. There were so many conversations that were interrupted by the phrase "we were just talking about that." I have never witnessed such a crowd of people on the same wavelength.
Of course the group was diverse. Most regions did not have more than two participants. Each one of the participants seemed not to know what to expect, yet eager to see what was on the horizon.
We went as a group to Elon Moreh, Shiloh, and toured the Biblical Garden that was constructed on the grounds of the hotel. Also, guest speakers covered the gamut of working community models, integration of foreigners into the Israeli paradigm, and legal considerations. Members of the Congress spoke at length about outlined points that were in need of consideration. Through days of deliberation on selected topics, a compilation of key thoughts was put together and is being produced for posterity and reflection. All together, the group seemed to be feeling the pulse of the Land and following the divine guidance that we had each been given toward a common purpose. I know that I was blessed by the experience. We have all had moments where we felt inspiration and have likewise met frustration in earnest. Among those at the Congress, I did not hear any negative reports and I saw only encouragement and a tempered anticipation for the direction that lay in store for Ephraim and Judah finally coming together.
With a zeal like that of Caleb before us, we were ready to start right there in that hotel. The overwhelming consensus was a need to find a way to work hand in hand with our brothers - with both Ephraim and Judah working on the same team for the same King. On a general note, we recognized that the whole of Israel can only be unified once Ephriam was able to get along among our own tribes. Of course, this will be done in His hand, but that is not an excuse for people who claim to be brothers to squabble, bicker, and spar until there are no more synonyms to describe the disputes.
I was in the land for 6 full days and did not have one negative experience while I was there. I did not have one cross word with a brother, sister, or proposed enemy for that matter. It felt like I was in an enclosure of the Father's design and given a purpose with a very real endgame in mind: The King will soon be coming home. I want to have my house and my heart in order when He gets here. The congress was a very hopeful example, it made everyone feel that they were not alone in this divinely inspired reunion vision.
"'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!' declares the
Lord." .... [Therefore,] "'I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD'"
(Jeremiah 23:1,3, ESV).
An Update on Angus and Batya
Angus and Batya were unfortunately unable to attend the Congress due to pressing health issues. They very much wanted to be there and the Congress was opened with a letter from the venerable pair, which was read to the participants by Rimona Frank. (We will reproduce that letter along with further comments and updates in the next Herald Newsletter.)
The following is a current update from them:
Angus and I have certainly had our health challenges of late, but our ever-present response to all who ask about how we are doing is something I often heard my elderly father say: "I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in." Or, we can see that getting old gives you more opportunities to do battle with infirmities. =:-/
Angus is still in rehab and continues to be as strong as a bull. He has been broadsided by things that would surely have killed lesser men, yet he keeps on going, always working to get better. He especially wants to thank all of our friends who have written, called and prayed. Each one is much appreciated.
After working for so long to care for Angus and help him get better, I finally had to have a pacemaker put in. Now, I am happy to say that I am feeling stronger than I have for a long time. I too, want to especially thank all of you who have prayed for us. I think caring prayer is something that is almost palatable. It is the greatest gift you can give. Thanks to all of you for your gifts, and if we may ask, please keep them coming.
Angus and I are beyond sorry to have missed a very auspicious occasion like the Congress that was hosted by our dear friends, Ephraim and Rimona Frank, but missing it left us feeling that the "children" we helped raise did exceedingly well on their own. And that makes us feel incredibly proud. We believe that the sign of a good leader is that their people can carry on without them. We are happy to say that a work started decades ago lives on and will hopefully continue to do so.
Much love to all of you.
Yours for the Restoration of the Whole House of Israel,
Angus and Batya
The Need For Order For Any Future Congress
One thing that needs to be addressed as we move forward is the need for order. As Jethro suggested for Moses, a hierarchy is necessary so that the burden will not fall dangerously on too few shoulders. The First Congress was only achieved by divine mercy. Ephriam and Rimona Frank graciously handled all of the leg work and somehow managed to shoulder the whole congress. This was unfair and, in the future, unnecessary. While, Ephraim and Rimona are, and will remain, revered pioneers of this calling, we as a body can help lighten the load that has been placed before them. Ever-present was a truly remarkable example of service-driven hearts: the congress never failed to have someone give up their food, seat, or render effort in aid of someone else. I would like to carry on this example and help to partition the steps toward the next congress.
In preparation for the first congress, in order to have a more complete voice, town hall meetings were held in some locations. The idea being that it would allow those who were going to attend to understand the heart of, not only their own congregations, but the body as a whole. The hope was that participants would bring the ideas and concerns of the greater body with them and, in turn, a relatively small congress would represent a much wider spectrum. Considering the nature of the first congress, this plan worked well. However, as we move forward and specific concerns arise, with a continued need for harmony, there needs to be some sort of structure in place to make sure that those who want to be represented, can be.
Generally known as a representative assembly, the process can be fairly straightforward. Making a three tiered process of choosing and refining representatives could make things more efficient both administratively and productively. Certainly, having designated representatives that are set aside by a larger group with a specific mindset will decrease "ambient noise" and make it easier for the congress to serve its purpose. Likewise, the fewer people that have to be fit into one room, the easier it will be to coordinate. Precedents for this exist from the tribal elders to the congress of the United States and every government in between.
In order to be taken seriously, we must organize among ourselves and, like the Father set out in Exodus, have a structure and purpose to go with whatever we do. I would propose that we begin to organize town hall meetings now so that we might have representatives ready and willing to carry the minds of their congregations and regions to the land along with them. Once these representatives are chosen, we must have a larger regional gathering to refine those representatives. This provides well selected discussion leading to another choice of the best representatives regionally to exemplify the whole. After so doing, the congress will be held again in Ari'el (HaShem willing).
People had to be turned away due to space limitations. Also, 150 people was about the maximum number that could be heard during the round table discussions. Anything more may run the risk of excluding the voices of some in lieu of time constraints. In order to pursue this order, we should begin organizing locally sooner rather than later. Whoever is chosen at a regional level must have the time to organize funds and clear their calendar. So, I am taking the initiative of investigating and beginning the organization of the second tier of the gathering now. That way, once the local meetings are completed, there will be a venue and plan to proceed to the second step.
Considering that Angus and Batya were unable to attend the first congress, I will attempt to make the North American regional gathering as close to them as possible, likely in Orlando. The European representatives have already decided to have their gathering in Switzerland from December 31st to January 3rd. Hopefully, we will be able to fund a representative from North America to attend that gathering. Vice versa, it would be kind to host one of the Europeans during the North American gathering that would take place later in January.
This is all preliminary information and planning, but the more people we can get involved during the early stages the better off we will be.
Future Newsletters will offer more details.
Hanoch Young and Mike Clayton
Connect to Israel November Tour
A Personal Chronology
The Initial Wait
For a six a.m. flight, I am now aware that the usual time constraints do not apply. Arriving at the airport four hours in advance was complete overkill. However, it set the tone for the entire trip. The time was not wasted. There were so many unusual and interesting people and events that made the time seem like an apparition, but not of any consequence.
The airport in Jacksonville was closed, including all the shops and flight counters. There were a smattering of people, most of which were sleeping on benches, surrounded by luggage, or security patrolling the corridors with a seemingly high level of awareness, I began to explore the small international airport and found only one place that was open to the public. It was a lounge that had some techno/blues mix perpetually playing. There was nothing for sale, only seating, mostly in the form of modestly comfortable couches. I walked past the lounge during my initial exploration and saw an elderly woman conversing with a security guard from one of couches. The guard seemed kind and attentive and was asking lots of questions about how she was holding up. After a fruitless search, as I returned through the passageway, I found the same woman sleeping in what looked like an uncomfortable position. Her feet were up and she was using one of her bags as a pillow. Deciding to sit on the couches rather than the benches, for sheer comfort, I sat down on one of the few couches available in the lounge.
While this was seemingly uneventful, the woman had had quite the ordeal. After a short time the guard returned on a motorized scooter and woke the woman. The statement that was made piqued my interest and initiated a conversation that consumed all the time until I had to go.
"We will keep looking for him."
" Is there anyone else you can call?" the guard inquired.
"No... and my phone seems dead," she stated in a consistently concerned tone that remained for quite a while.
The guard reassured her that they were doing all they could, and then rode away on the the small device that he was riding, which whirred into action.
She squirmed to get up and began to readjust her makeshift pillow, and I politely interjected "Are you OK?", knowing that she clearly wanted someone to vent to while she waited.
She began on a tale of her trip from Maryland and the unfortunate event upon her arrival. There had been an elderly gentleman waiting for her at the gate. They greeted each other and she went to get her bags. He told her that he would go get the car and would return when she was ready, and then he promptly disappeared. He was elderly and she was worried that something had happened to him, but the security and police had searched the airport and parking lots only to find no trace of him or his car. Concerns of dementia and abduction swirled in her mind, making the time linger. So I took it on to ease her mind if I was at all able.
First role of distraction: find a task and focus on it. She had mentioned that her phone was dead, so I mentioned my technical proficiency and followed that with an offer of help on the issue. This greatly relieved her. Mainly because an activity that can be witnessed is more real to a person than a verbal assurance that something is happening. The police and security were doing far more than I; however, my help was in front of her face and could serve as a distraction. What is truly interesting about this story may seem as a cruel trick. In keeping with the tenets of service and care, I told her about myself and listened to her, and, as another joined our group, relived her story and shared with others as they wanted to aid as well.
Fairy tales always have an end. But the sad truth is that this does not. After three hours of waiting, the counters opened and I had to go, and the woman's story didn't end. I have no resolution, nor do I have any speculation as to the nature of her companion's disappearance. But I did what I could as I went. I even went as far as to give her my card, ask her to keep in touch and also thanked and left a card with the woman who joined us that was going to sit with her - as I had - for a long as she could. Thus began my journey and as I prayed for a safe, prosperous, and Godly guided adventure. Somehow I knew that that prayer had already been attended to and assured.
( 2 )
The Short Flight to New York
I sat down on the plane. There is always a small level of anticipation when you fly alone. You never know who you are going to be sitting next to on the flight. Being the first one to sit down on my row, coupled with the long nature of the travel ahead, my anticipation had a nervous twinge to it. I was relaxed, with the regard that that whatever happens is supposed to do so, yet I could not help but wonder who I would be seated next to and if the conversation be as engaging as the one I had just exited.
I did not have to wait long for my answer. A couple descended upon me with their daughter in the seat in front of them. Seated at the window, I was pinned in naturally and not unexpectedly. Introducing myself and smiling as I greeted him, he bore a look on his face that seemed a bit agitated. Knowing that Israel can have this affect on people, I asked him about the nature of his trip in a very inquisitive and hopeful way. People can respond in a variety of ways to queries. How they do so can be very telling. This gentleman carried past his clear frustration and answered.
He told about how he was flying to New York for a wedding and he had made the trip many times. He continued on as he and everyone else in his family got as comfortable as they could. As he concluded his summation, he did the inevitable polite thing and asked me what the nature of my trip was. Therein lay the beginning of the eventfulness of this leg of the voyage. When I told him I was headed to Israel, his demeanor completely transformed. He turned from a traveler to a friend in an instant. I answered any questions about the parameters of the trip with my initial statement. Being my first trip to Israel, this meeting may have been naive; however, honesty has been good to me, so I don't tend to bend the truth for the sake of caution. Having declared myself a friend of Israel with direct Jewish heritage and pointing out this was my first international trip, my new friend turned to me and took on a very familial grandfatherly tone. He was kind and informative. His son lives in Israel and, as has his father, has been there many times. He was a ripe but capable age and clearly was comfortable in his eating habits, as most Americans are. He, very much at my urging, unleashed many tips about international travel and about the land that is so special to the sons of Abraham. He was clearly secular, but his proclivity toward hospitality and oneness increased the more spiritual he found out that I was.
After the dos and do nots , I clarified my hopes for the Land. In my ardent support of the nation and its current authority and hope for a unified Israeli state under Judah, he cautioned me in that very familiar finger-pointing way.
"There can not be peace," he said, and went on to explain about the very nature of the people in the area. I heard him out and, aware of his firm considered opinion, changed the subject to more personal things (as if the state of peace in Israel is not personal). I asked him about his business and relationship with family. In the conversation, his topic constantly shifted again and again to a nation of fairness and integrity and devotion to doing the right thing, not for the love of money, but because it was the right thing. He told a story of pride about his daughter that was sitting in front of us. He detailed a single telling event. The story of a purse gone missing. His daughter happened to be the one to find this lost purse and decided to locate the owner. During her investigation of the contents she found a substantial amount of money along with the identification. She sought out the owner and found the purse's home. The woman that had lost the purse inspected it and realized that it was completely intact and every penny that had been lost was also returned. So impressed with the young girl's integrity, the owner tried to give all of the returned money to my new friend's daughter as a reward. With a gleam of pride that only a father can feel, he raised his finger and proclaimed, she did not take the reward, claiming that it was only the right thing. The owner of the purse was now determined to reward this girl of integrity and contacted her father to make sure she received it. After a long pause, seeing the smile of a truly pleased parent, I admonished him in the most loving way possible. Not refuting him, but revealing the truth that he himself had witnessed. I told him that it was clear that he was a good father and had at least one wonderful child. I referred to peace and asked if he had it in his household. He replied yes and I continued. Peace is not something that can be grown from the large to the small. It starts between people. The government of Israel does what it must to keep peace and it is very right that it should do so. And as the government of Israel does its best to deal with the difficulty of dealings with hateful people, we must do our best to do as our Lord would have us do. As the Jews have done and tried to do in their communities for years. Do the right thing for the right reason. Peace is not some concept that can be made to happen. It is a notion that can be enacted at a personal level. Peace is not anti-violence. It is merely fairness and kindness with regard to Torah. I concluded that he should not change what he is doing but be encouraged that his right action will yield fruit, as it has already. Suggesting that something that has been achieved at a micro level is impossible at a macro level simply because it is distant and difficult will only discourage us from doing what can be done here and now. This brought us to the end of the flight and I found myself thanking him for raising a good family and being a good father. He gave me a big hug and wished me a safe and peaceful journey and said he hoped to see me again. I stopped him and gave him my card and parted ways, continuing on my journey.
( 3 )
Transition to EL AL
An international airport in New York is a large place. Having a three hour layover, I had time to get from point A to B. But following my natural proclivities, I hurried to wait. Straight to the passport processing at EL AL I went. Focused on getting a new boarding pass, I hardy noticed the time alone. Being my first time out of the country, I was expecting questions over my passport, but I was surprised at the detail in which the processors delved. I produced a letter from the hotel where I was going to be staying and explained that it was a pro-Israel conference. Unbeknownst to me, one of my fellow passengers overheard me from the row beside me. He was intrigued and, after he was let through, he waited for me in order to inquire about this pro-Israel conference. He was clearly orthodox but modern. A young man with a clean-cut red goatee and plain business-like attire. Upon asking what type of pro-Israel conference, I informed him that it was a bit unique. It was a conference about mutual respect and brotherly unity. This confused him and my vague statements only seemed to make him more interested. I informed him of my lineage (having a Jewish father and a Southern Baptist mother). I clearly stated that I believed in Yeshua and that I believed that the last tribes in the nations were finding their identity and this convention was an effort to unify the Ephraim subset in support for our older brother. This piqued his confusion. He seemed a little shocked that I was Christian and asked a few pointed questions that were a bit defensive and seemingly resentful, even though I doubt it was intended. I quickly rerouted the conversation when it got to the point of "Why does Jesus have to die for my sins?" I responded with a statement that was not aimed at answering that very important question but rather clarifying my motivation and position. I told him that I don't want to espouse my position or covert him. I believe that Yeshua is my Savior and that the Torah are God's commands. I also believe that Judah has been faithfully and diligently following Torah for over 3 thousand years. I love Judah and have no interest in changing Judah. I respect Judah and hope that Judah will in kind respect me, Ephraim, with the same respect that does not demand change. I then stated that if he wanted to know about my belief because he was interested, I would be happy to share. Just as I hoped that he would faithfully share with me his belief if I was interested. I told him that mutual respect was imperative and did he want to know the answers to his questions because he was interested or because he felt he had to defend his faith. He didn't answer. He rerouted to a more personal topic and asked about me. It seemed he had become interested in the man in front of him and I answered the questions openly. I did the same in kind and it was clear that he was a good and thoughtful man. It appeared that he thought the same of me. The next two to two and a half hours passed like a jackrabbit and we found that we had a tremendous amount in common, including our devotion to God. Our particular beliefs did not interfere with each other and considering that he believed in the coming Messiah as much as I did. We didn't clash once in our understanding of Torah or the appropriate way in which to serve Yahweh through implementation of Torah. We parted a bit hastily and a few details spilled that he probably avoided at the beginning but was happy to share now. He said he was in the IDF for 2 years. I stopped his sentence and thanked him for his service. He was a bit taken aback and I am still unclear as to why. He asked why I thanked him. I told him that Israel needs to be protected and I am proud and thankful of anyone that does. He stood silent for a moment. We were in the tunnel at this point and he dropped a surprise as he put his hand on his shoulder as he accompanied me down the ramp. He told me he was going to marry an Israeli girl on Thursday and that was the reason why he was coming. He stopped short of the door to the plane and asked me if I would come to his wedding in Jerusalem. I was surprised to say the least. The openness and hospitality was just one of the many things I admire about Judah. In front of me stood a shining example of why I am right to love my brother. I told him how appreciative I was to be invited and that if I was able, I would love to attend. At this point we were holding up traffic and we assured one another we would try to find one another when we got off the plane. We were quite distant with regard to our seats and because of time I failed to give him my card. He went to the Israeli section and I to the foreign section and he must have picked up his bags before I was able to get to baggage claim. I never got to exchange information and I will regret that until the day I am blessed to meet my new found brother again. I prayed that he have a joyful wedding and that he finds fulfillment in his new and promising marriage. I hope to see him again.
To be continued in the next Herald....
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