Israel 2016: Picking Up Where We Left Off – A Report on the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress
A remarkable thing happened seventeen months ago, when the First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened in Ariel, Israel. At that time a people who had not existed as a people for over 2,700 years came back from the ash heap of history. The people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) – Ephraim, those “Lost Tribes” of Israel’s northern kingdom – assembled in Samaria, the territory of their ancient ancestors, and acknowledged their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to accomplish His Word to bring their people back as a nation and join them with the Jewish part of Israel (the House of Judah) in fulfillment of His covenant.
It was a modest beginning; only a little over 130 people attended, representing 12 countries. We made no bold declarations, but humbly whispered to one another and to the world that we were ready to answer the Father’s call and walk out the return of the Prodigal. Humble indeed, but astounding nevertheless. Certainly no less astounding than the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 after 1,900 years of dissolution.
The momentum of that First Congress has carried into the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, which is now in its third day. The Congress convened on the evening of October 26, 2016, and will continue until Monday, October 31. The venue once again is the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel. The numbers of delegates are about the same, but this time there are some significant differences.
For one thing, the number of nations has grown to 15. Not surprisingly, the United States has the largest number of delegates, comprising about half of the total. What is surprising is that the second largest contingent is from one of the world’s smallest countries: the Netherlands. Over 20 Dutch Ephraimites are here, imparting a beautiful Dutch accent to all the proceedings. Also represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. A central feature of the Congress has been reports from each of these countries, as well as video and proxy reports from Finland, Pakistan, Uganda, and India.
These reports build a mosaic of the Hebrew Awakening happening across the globe. In Pakistan, for example, Pastor Qaiser Ilyas shared by video his work in building Hebrew language and Torah teaching programs in Urdu for children and adults. Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, shared the revival that is beginning among the youth of her people, and the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity. A similar phenomenon is happening among the Mizo people of northeast India, as Margot Crossing related in her report about the descendants of exiled Israelites who migrated across the Silk Road into South Asia. These developments are happening simultaneously with the better-known Torah awakenings in Europe and North America, and in time will have an even more significant impact as tens of millions of Ephraimites come into the understanding of their covenant identity.
These exciting reports have been tempered with sobering elements. In Pakistan, Hebrew believers are a twice-oppressed minority: first as followers of Yeshua in a Muslim nation, and then by the church in Pakistan, which has largely shunned them. Fernandino Ibo related a similar story of persecuted Christians and Hebrew believers in Papua, Indonesia. Persecution is not prevalent in Australia, but the established church has resisted the Hebrew awakening among Aboriginals. Reports from every country carry the same elements of isolation, with Hebrews finding it difficult to connect with like-minded believers due to their relatively small numbers in each country and the large distances between them. Most of the reports contained sobering news of poor governmental relations with the State of Israel, although in many counties the people – particularly Christians – are far more favorable to Israel and the Jewish people than their governments.
These reports highlight the direction this Congress is taking with a theme of mispocha, family. Truly we are a family regardless of our nation of birth, ethnicity, or native language. The question is how to begin to act like a family, and then how to act toward our Jewish brethren. Caroline Andreas and Ingrid Van Eysden of Holland set the tone on the first night through their performance in dance as Mahanaim (Two Camps). Their moving presentation depicted of the story of Judah and Ephraim through the images of two brides, one dressed in white and one in red. The dance traced the enmity between the two as they each sought the affection of the Bridegroom, until at last the Red Bride came to her senses and sought reconciliation with the White Bride. As they approached the Bridegroom together, the two became one bride dressed in gold and made ready for her King.
After this presentation, Andrew Hodkinson of South Africa led the Congress in a time of worship in song and dance. The dance circle itself was a picture of the Ephraimite mispocha as dancers from Holland, England, Australia, Canada, Fiji, the US, Israel, and South Africa joined in joyful expressions to YHVH. The evening ended with Ed Boring of the US leading the assembly in singing Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel.
A full day of presentations began on Thursday, October 27, with Iris Bouwman of the Netherlands bringing a message on defining moments in the biblical history of Israel. She challenged the delegates to look back at the way we have come so that we can know the way ahead. We identify with Joseph, both in his dreams and in his rejection by his brothers. The dreams and the rejection prepared him for his role as the firstborn to save and protect the family. We must also remember that Joseph had two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh. Iris suggests that Manasseh is like the church in that he, like Ephraim, was blessed, but his very name indicates he would forget his identity. Our brethren in the church have fought great battles through the centuries to preserve and increase the family of God, but now we who have received the revelation of Ephraim are called to complete the battle for the redemption of the entire family. We must not look down on our brethren in the church, but instead pray for them and expect many of them to join us on this journey of restoration.
The road to restoration was the subject of the afternoon presentation by Ron Campbell of the US. Drawing on his extensive research into the roots of Freemasonry and ancient mystery religions, Ron traced the history of Jeroboam’s sin back to the religion of Egypt, with its worship of Osiris and the cow god Apis. His historical presentation opened the way for a call to identificational repentance for the sins of our people from ancient times to the present. In response to Ron’s leading, the entire Congress stood and confessed as a body these longstanding sins, including idolatry, rebellion, arrogance, hatred of our brother, shedding innocent blood, synchretism (mixture of worship of YHVH with worship of false gods), adultery, rejection of Torah, and much more. The sense among the delegates was that this would be the beginning of a conscious effort by the people of Yosef/Ephraim to confess our corporate sins and the sins of our fathers just as Moses and the Prophets specified in order for all the tribes to be restored (see Deuteronomy 30:1-6; I Kings 8:46-53; Jeremiah 16:14-21).
Hanoch Young and Mike Clayton closed the day with exhortations to remind the delegates that we and our fellow Hebrews around the world have been called “for such a time as this”, when the Almighty is bringing the fulfillment of His kingdom and covenant promises. As they have consistently demonstrated in their teachings and in their friendship, Hanoch and Mike called on the Congress to maintain a high standard of mutual respect between Ephraim and Judah.
Mutual respect is but the beginning of a process that will lead us into a “servant priesthood” role. That was the topic of the only major presentation on Friday, October 28, brought by Ephraim Frank of Israel. He explained that the emerging House of Yosef/Ephraim is not yet ready for this priestly role of the firstborn because we are still scattered, fragmented, and divided among ourselves. Our return to Torah is an essential step, for the Torah is the judicial system of the Almighty. If we do not understand that judicial system, then we do not understand the Father. The Torah teaches us how to walk in the Spirit from a judicial perspective. This understanding is an indication that we are indeed in the Days of Elijah, but we are also in the days of Ezekiel 34, when Yeshua is gathering the sheep of the House of Israel. Ephraim concluded by saying that this gathering has begun in individuals, and has progressed to families. The families will become communities, which will in time become tribes, and finally the complete nation.
As the evening shadows of Shabbat approach, we are about to gather for supper, and then for Erev Shabbat celebrations. The Congress business will continue after Shabbat. In the meantime, these delegates from 15 nations have much to pray through and discuss in this process of becoming a people once again.