First B’ney Yosef (Sons of Joseph) National Congress Report
It has been two weeks since the B’ney Yosef (Sons of Joseph) National Congress adjourned on May 25. The delegates are even now sharing their impressions of the event. Over the next few weeks we can expect the publication of articles, interviews, videos, pictures, and much more regarding the work YHVH established in Ariel, Israel. A number of us have already had opportunity to share our experiences and impressions. Here is a list of the ones that have come to my attention.
- Hebrew Nation Morning Show interviews of Ephraim and Rimona Frank (first hour) and Al McCarn (second hour) on June 3, 2015. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek podcast by Tzefanyah Ben Yochanon and Al McCarn. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- “Resentment & Replacement or Reconciliation & Restoration”, presentation by Hanoch Young of Kol Yehuda. (Click here to watch the video.)
- Congress Report by Mike Clayton of Joined to Hashem. (Click here to watch the video.)
- United2Restore podcast by Ken Rank and Hanoch Young. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Commentary in Swedish by Viveka Sjulmark on Sarahs Tālt.
- Commentary in Dutch by Hadassah Dee on Tegenhetlicht.
- Sunday School Report by Pete Rambo at the Lexington Baptist Church, Lexington, SC, delivered on May 31, 2015. Click here to watch the entire report. Click here to see the 10-minute Youtube video of Pete’s entire trip. Pete began posting updates on his experiences as soon as he arrived in Israel. The updates are available at his blog, www.natsab.com.
- As mentioned in an earlier post, it was my honor to be the first presenter at the Congress. Click here to read my address on the Foundations of Ephraimite Identity.
That is quite a collection of video, audio, and written material assembled in less than two weeks! It will take some time for the full impact of the Congress to manifest itself, but it is clear that something very significant happened at the Eshel HaShomron Hotel in Ariel. In essence, it was that 135 people from 12 nations came together to acknowledge that the Sovereign Creator of the Universe is at last restoring the entire nation of Israel just as He promised.
This is a paradigm-shifting assertion. For over 2,700 years the nation of Israel has consisted entirely of the Jewish people (House of Judah), but now there is reason to believe that YHVH is at last proclaiming an end to the exile of the “Lost Ten Tribes” of Ephraim, named for the tribe which led the House of Israel in rebellion against King David’s grandson Rehoboam (see I Kings 11-12). Ever since that time, the prophets of Israel have promised that the Lord will restore Ephraim and reunite the tribes with Judah under the reign of Messiah Son of David. Jewish sages have anticipated fulfillment of this promise for centuries, and in ages past sent many explorers to the four corners of the earth looking for the Lost Tribes. Although there are many people groups who have ancestral memory of descent from the Lost Tribes, they did not match the expectations of the Jewish explorers. Today we can understand why. First of all, the Lost Tribes lost their identity, being absorbed into the nations where they were scattered just as the Lord decreed. Second, what no one expected is that the reconstitution of Ephraim began in the place where the lost Ephraimites have been congregating for two millennia: in churches! What Christians and Jews have missed is that Messiah Yeshua’s work of restoring the Kingdom has manifested itself by opening the way for all people to be united to Israel regardless of their physical ancestry. And that explains why the emerging Ephraimite Movement has Christian roots.
As YHVH is restoring to His people an understanding of the importance of His Torah and how the testimony of Messiah Yeshua fits with it, He is restoring as well an awareness of our identity as Israelites. Moreover, He is revealing a deep yearning for reconciliation and reunification with our long-lost brother Judah. This is not yet a massive movement within the church, but it is global. It would appear that forerunners among Christian, Messianic, Hebrew Roots, and Jewish segments of God’s people are answering the call to come together and prepare the way for the promised restoration of the entire nation.
That is the essence of what happened at the First B’ney Yosef Congress. My wife and I went there representing two bodies of believers. One of those is Prayer Surge NOW, a prayer ministry that unites believers from many different Christian and Messianic traditions in concerted intercession for the world. The other is a small circle of Hebrew Roots believers in Austin, Texas, whose friendship we have enjoyed for many years. An interesting statistic is that there were more delegates from Texas than from any other single place, including six of us from the San Antonio area. Most of the delegates came from English-speaking countries, particularly the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Sri Lanka. Other English-speaking delegates included two from Aqaba, Jordan, representing an Ephraimite community whose roots go back about 20 years, when a few Americans moved there in response to a call from the Holy Spirit. Thanks to the presence of many delegates from Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden, we were able to establish German and Swedish language tables which enriched the proceedings with their distinct perspectives on the issues under discussion. Delegates from Finland, France, Israel, Mexico, and the Netherlands mixed freely among the assembly, each making valuable contributions to the proceedings.
The one disappointment was that we could not enjoy the fellowship of Gaddi Linga-Murthy of India. As president of Beit Yaaqov International, he represents many thousands of people who trace their ancestry to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and who are awakening to their connection with the land and people of Israel. Although visa difficulties prevented him from joining us in person, Gaddi did address the Congress via Skype on the last day, bringing a stirring report about the breadth and depth of the Ephraimite Movement in South Asia. His presentation provided a fitting conclusion to the Congress, following a number of other speakers who had covered several important topics. The included:
- John Conrad, Head Elder of the House of Aaron Community in Eskdale, Utah, who addressed the topic of community and national unity.
- Elders of the Kibbutz Beth-El, a Christian community founded in 1963 by two German families who had a vision for blessing the land and people of Israel. The Beth-El community has brought that vision into reality, creating opportunities in agriculture, industry, education, and social services that have employed many hundreds of Israelis and served to bridge the gap between Jews and Christians. The Beth-El model is worthy of study as the Ephraimite Movement seeks ways to bless Israel, reconcile with and serve our brethren of Judah, and connect with the land.
- Frank Houtz, author, teacher, and founder of the Dry Bones Restoration Company. In addressing the topic of education, Frank presented the vision of a new educational institution – Jefferson College at Pilot View in Winchester, Kentucky. The college will be a center of biblical studies, emphasizing methodology rather than doctrine, and will also serve the education needs of the surrounding community. In addition to his address during the Congress, at Shavuot Frank provided a sample of the teaching the college will offer by demonstrating through linguistic analysis of the epistle to Rome how the mission of the Apostle Paul was in large part to call Ephraimites back into the Kingdom of Israel.
- Shadi Khalloul, president of the Aramaic Christian Association in Israel. Shadi was instrumental in achieving the recent recognition of Aramaic Christians as a separate minority in Israel. The Arameans have been a distinct people in the Middle East for millennia, and in fact are the people of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Deuteronomy 26:5). After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE, the Arameans became an oppressed minority, and in time became known as “Christian Arabs”. They are not Arabs, however, and in recent years the movement to restore their identity has met with success in the State of Israel. As Shadi explained, many of the Christians currently suffering extreme persecution in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon are Arameans, and thus are distant kin to Ephraimites.
- Ephraim Frank provided an enlightening teaching on the financial model of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Scripture explains that the Mishkan was built and maintained through the tithe which God provided for His people to return to Him in freewill contributions. Ephraim suggested that this model could serve the Ephraimite Movement as we seek to build communities and a national identity.
Perhaps the most poignant presentation of the Congress was Hanoch’s address, “Resentment & Replacement or Reconciliation & Restoration”. His message, although uncomfortable, was necessary. He spoke of the persistent attitudes within the Messianic/Hebrew Roots Movement which fosters division among us, and which prevents us from embracing Jews as our brethren. Perhaps the most painful point he addressed was the presence of replacement theology within the Hebrew Roots Movement. He explained that there is a tendency among some fellowships to embrace Torah while simultaneously casting aside anything Jewish. While there is much that needs correction in Jewish teaching and practice, Hanoch contends, quite rightly, that it is the Jews who sought to study and keep Torah while Christians were distancing themselves from it. He noted that the delegates at the Congress were of a different spirit, and therefore did not represent many in this movement whom he had encountered in several visits to the United States.
Hanoch’s remarks touched on what may be the most significant aspect of the Congress: the deep desire for repentance and reconciliation with Judah. More than once it was observed that the parable of the Prodigal Son is the story of Ephraim and Judah. The parable relates how the younger son (Ephraim) is reconciled with the Father, but the story ends before he is reconciled with his older brother (Judah). The older brother suffered greatly because of the younger son’s disobedience and unwise squandering of the family fortune. As the elder brother, it falls to him to redeem the younger son’s position and inheritance, and thus it is essential that the younger brother reconcile with him. That understanding permeated our time together, beginning even before the Congress convened. Over half of us gathered at the hotel on Friday evening and remained together through Shabbat and Shavuot. The fellowship, prayer, and worship we shared served as a fitting prelude to the Congress. The element of repentance toward Judah was perhaps the greatest single aspect of our time together, motivating us not only to speak words of repentance, but to find ways to serve our Jewish brothers and sisters both in the Land and in the Diaspora.
There is still much more to relate regarding the First B’ney Yosef National Congress. We left Ariel much encouraged and motivated to continue the work of building this nation. The European delegates have already begun to plan a follow-up conference in Bern, Switzerland at the end of this year, and the North American delegates are considering a similar conference in January 2015. It remains to be seen what will happen next. In the discussions I have enjoyed with fellow delegates since our return, it seems that we are feeling our way forward while trying to maintain a delicate balance between maintaining momentum and avoiding the establishment of an unhealthy authoritarian structure. The consensus I have detected is that this nation is to be built organically, from the ground up. That means it is up to local fellowships and communities to begin functioning not as religious groups, but as real communities. The regional and national structures will come in time, but we dare not build them prematurely. This, too, is a test of our faith. If our God really is restoring this nation, then we must take Him at His word and trust that He will accomplish it in His own way. This is something that has never been done before, and something that must be done in a way that has no taint of the Babylonian world system which we have known since the days of Nimrod. That is the system which the turmoil of these Last Days will bring down even as the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah is rising up. Our task is to abide in Him, watching, praying, and applying the lessons of His entire Word so that we can act at the time He directs. The pressure, therefore, is entirely on YHVH; this national restoration is for His Name’s sake, and it is at His invitation that we come along.