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.
Coming to Jerusalem at the invitation of the Almighty for one of His feasts means stepping into a bubble of time and space. It is holy and joyous, but like all good things is must end at some point. My friend Pete has written about the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles our families shared in the moshav (village) of Gi’vat Ye’arim. I cannot improve on what he shared in his post called Embraced! (To read it, please go here: https://natsab.com/2016/10/24/embraced/)
Our farewell to Gi’vat Ye’arim arrived on October 25. We travelled from there in three cars to Ariel, site of the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress. The plan as to take the highway to the coast and drive up Route 2 along the Mediterranean, then stop at Mount Carmel where Elijah defeated the prophets of Ba’al (I Kings 18), and from there go to Ariel. We did not count on Tel Aviv traffic! Before long we became separated, leaving my wife, Charlayne, our daughter Katie, Pete’s son Jeremiah, and myself to make our own way.
It turned out to be a very pleasant journey. We did dip our feet in the sea at Caesarea, where the old Roman aqueduct still stands. The calm blue of the water captured our admiration, but could not keep me from remembering that the ships of at least five navies were playing games of cat-and-mouse not that far away in the deadly dance over Syria. Such thoughts are never far away when one is in Israel. And yet they did not diminish our enjoyment of Caesarea that day.
As we resumed the journey, we drove to and through the Mount Carmel National Park. The views are splendid, the roads wind up and down the hills, and sometimes large trucks slow the journey. Driving through the Druze town on the slopes of the Carmel Range was a cultural experience – made more interesting by a wrong turn down a side street. (Hint: never, ever, ever do that in the Middle East!)
Eventually we arrived at the Carmelite monastery which is the traditional site of Elijah’s victory. There we were reunited with our friends, thanks to the timely arrival of several tour busses why I blocked their cars in the parking lot for an hour! We had time to take in the stunning views of the Jezreel Valley and of the imposing statue of Elijah on its tall pedestal before continuing on to our final destination: the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel.
Since arriving here we have enjoyed continuous fellowship with old and new friends from 15 countries and six continents. The Congress convened last night, October 26, with a review of the First Congress by Ephraim and Rimona Frank, and reports from delegates of the participating countries. Mike Clayton provided a short exhortation from Scripture which set the tone for these five days. He pointed out that Judah’s returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah celebrated Sukkot (Tabernacles) after building Jerusalem’s wall, and then assembled on the 24th day of the seventh month to fast, pray, read the Torah, and declare their repentance and allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to His covenant (see Nehemiah 8 and 9). As Mike pointed out, we returning Ephraimites just happen to have assemble on the 24th day of the seventh Hebrew month to convene our Congress for the same purpose. As in all things of YHVH, that is not a coincidence.
The evening ended with a time of worship and dance, featuring a powerful dance presentation by the Dutch group Mahanaim (Two Camps). They depicted two brides – Judah in white and Ephraim in red – who separated, fought with one another, and in the end were reunited by the same Bridegroom they both love. Their performance established a worshipful tone which introduced Andrew Hodkinson of South Africa to lead us all in song and dance. Those of us who joined the dance circle had come from Holland, England, Fiji, Australia, Sweden, South Africa, the USA. Together we danced as one people, brought near by the Messiah we adore to the brother we have longed to embrace here in this land of Israel. At the of the evening, Ed Boring of the USA led us all in singing Hatikvah – Israel’s national anthem. It could not have been a better ending to these days of transition.