Luke Hilton

New World / Old World Wine – Where is Israel?

I was recently privileged to participate in a WSET (Wine, Spirit, & Education Trust) Level 2 course here in Israel. Ten years ago, I knew nothing about wine, and since coming to Israel for the first time, I have slowly begun building my knowledge about grapes, wine and vineyards. When I started the WSET Level 2 course, though, I quickly realized that my level of knowledge in this area was miniscule. WSET is a UK-based school of learning that is internationally recognized for training sommeliers and wine experts. Some of you may be familiar with the presentation “Israel’s Story Told Through Wines” that Caleb Waller has recently been taking throughout North America, along with wine tastings for Israeli wines. Over the 5 weeks of the course, I began to have a revelation about the wine industry around the world, and the recent comeback of wines here in the land of Israel. I hope you’ll find this idea as fascinating as I did. When discussing world wines, the terms “old world” and “new world” are used to describe the well-known regions around the world. Most of Europe is considered old world, with France generally being cited as the top region for many wine varieties. Places like North America and Australia are generally considered new world regions. Israel is not even mentioned in the course, being too small and new to the wine stage. High quality wines from old world regions are many times known by their geographical location, and not necessarily their wineries. In French, there is no word for “winery,” and many high quality wines are labeled according to their region, village, or family vineyard. For instance, if you see a wine labeled “Chablis,” you know that this particular wine will be a very high quality Chardonnay, and will come from the region of Chablis, France. A “Pouilly Fume” labeled wine must be from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and come from the region of Bourgogne, France. New world wines sometimes depend on the winemaking process for the reputation and quality of their wine. Wineries are often more famous than the vineyard where the grapes come from. Typically, when speaking of high quality wines, old world wines are considered to be some of the finest in the world. 30 years ago, there were no vineyards in Samaria. Even though the entire region of Judea and Samaria is dotted with ancient cisterns, wine and olive oil presses cut into the rocks, and even wine aging caves, until the early 1990s, grapes were not grown here. In Samaria alone, there have been over 300 ancient wine presses discovered! Because of the archaeology, and the permanent reminders engraved into the rocks on these hills, we know what once was – that Israel was a major competitor in the world for the wine industry 2,000 years ago. Because Samaria is just north of Jerusalem, and Judea south, we can also judge that much of the wine made in these hills would have been used in the offerings in the Temple, and would therefore have been some of the finest in the world. However, after the destruction of the Temple, these hills in the heartland of Israel lay desolate for 2,000 years. Even after the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, for nearly 50 more years, hardly anything was grown here. Then in the early 90s, a few brave farmers decided that what the prophets once spoke must come to literal fruition. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. (Amos 9:13) Against the advice of the agricultural experts, farmers began to plant. On the Mount of Blessing, several brave farmers planted a few acres of wine grapes in 1997. Just a few short years later, their first harvest came in. They managed to secure a contract with Carmel Winery – the largest winery in Israel – to buy their grapes, as they had not yet started making wine themselves. The story goes that when the very small harvest of grapes reached Carmel that year, they immediately realized that these grapes were of a higher quality than their usual purchases, and they decided to separate them and make a wine with just the grapes from the Mount of Blessing. Since then, grapes coming from the Mount of Blessing are considered a very high quality, and are sought after, all over Israel. Since that time, wineries and vineyards have sprouted and taken flight all over Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Wines from these regions have won an untold number of gold, silver, and bronze medals in national and international competitions, competing with wines from around the world in blind tastings. The prophecy of Amos is truly coming to pass. As I went through the WSET Level 2 course, I realized that Israel is so new on the wine stage, that they’re not even referenced in the traditional material. If they are mentioned at all, it is in the context of “new world” wines. After pondering the history of winemaking here, and the phenomenon of so many vineyards and wineries cropping up and taking their place amongst world-renowned wines, I realized that it is only a matter of time before Israel is restored to its rightful place as an old world wine region, and referenced as some of the highest quality wine in the world. World-renowned wines were made here 2,000 years ago – the evidence is etched into the rocks on these hills. In less than 30 years, the vineyards and wineries have grown by an exponential number, and the wines that are winning international medals in blind competitions have reached a staggering number. I’m looking forward to the day when labels like “Har Bracha” (Mount of Blessing), “Shiloh,” “Psagot,” and “Mountains of Judea” will be known as specific, famous wines all around the world, with reputations to match. If Amos’ prophecy comes to complete fruition, then this time is not too far away. It’s all part of the greater restoration of God’s Kingdom happening here in the land of Israel, and we can all be a part of... Read MoreRead More

Which Way is Your Church Facing?

I felt inspired to begin this article by posting this cute(?) dog picture. I am not an expert on social media, but after a conversation with my good friend Andy, I learned that if you post a picture of your dog, you can get a lot more likes and comments on Facebook. He also said that if you post something about Israel, you will get very few. It would be impossible for me to stop writing about Israel, but I don’t see any reason I can’t put a dog picture up, if that’s what people like. Okay, the truth is I don’t have a dog, but this borrowed online dog, I believe, will help me make a point, and then also see if Andy is right. Again, this article is written to Christians. Recently, I had the privilege of joining a small group of Christian leaders who presented a declaration of repentance to the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein. The declaration was put together by Bob ODell of Root Source and Donna Jollay of Israel 365. Presented along with the declaration were 25 pages in chronological order of historical atrocities committed by Christians toward Jews. Follow the link here to see the story and sign the petition.     Obviously, as Christians, we have a lot of ground to make up. I hope you will be good Bereans and consider what I am presenting. If you’re not dog tired after reading it, I would also appreciate your thoughts or comments. Israel and Prophecy Today Many Christians say they have a deeper understanding of the Bible after visiting the Land of Israel. Most would say, “The Scriptures came to life.” But even after Christians have experienced the accuracy of the Holy ancient text, it is still difficult for most of us to accept that biblical prophecy could be coming to pass right now. It seems that a similar problem may have occurred 2000 years ago, when Yeshua walked the Land of Israel. From the New Testament Scriptures, it appears obvious that many believed the Kingdom of Israel was close to being established, and that Yeshua (Jesus) could be the one to sit on the promised eternal throne of David. The idea – even then – was difficult to grasp, under the Roman occupation. The questions of, “Could it be?” and “Is this the time?” or even, “We thought He was the One” are seen throughout the Christian Bible. (Matthew 12:23, Luke 1:32,33; 7:20; 22:67; 24:21, John 4: 29; 7:26,31,40-43; Acts 1:6).   As I have said many times before, I was excited to see and touch the reality of prophecy when I came to Israel. So why would a Christian not be excited? How could a follower of Yeshua not be motivated to ask the same questions today, while so many prophecies are now taking place in Israel? For one, most Christians experience God once a week/month/year, in a building not too far from home. The idea that God would place His Name in one particular place and not give us the option to create our own House of God is foreign to us. I just heard a prominent Israel-supporting pastor tell his congregation to bring their tithes and offerings into “the House of the Lord.” Where exactly is the House of the LORD or the House of Prayer, according to the Scripture? (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17; 1 Chronicles 6:32; Psalms 122:1,2) You may feel uncomfortable with these questions. You may be thinking, “Tommy, why rock the boat? My congregation has done and is doing so many good things for our community. I feel the Spirit of God when I worship there.” Please understand: I am not questioning the need for your congregation and the good work your church is doing or your spiritual experience there, but if God has a mind-blowing world saving plan, don’t you think it would be good for your church to get on board with that plan? (Romans 11:33-36)  Directionally Challenged Yeshua, whom every Christian believes to be the Messiah, attended a synagogue every Sabbath. It also seemed that all the followers of Yeshua – even after His ascension – attended synagogues, as well. (Matthew 12:8, Mark 1:21; 6:2, Luke 4:16, Acts 13:14,42; 15:21; 18:4) What is the purpose of the synagogue? In Judaism, the synagogue is referred to as a “little Temple.” The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is the “Big Temple” – the place God chose to put His Name. (Deuteronomy 12:5,11; 16:2,6,11; 1Kings 5:5; 8:29, 2 Chronicles 6:20,26,33; Ezekiel 43:7) A synagogue is always built facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, so its primary purpose is to keep its congregants praying and worshiping toward Jerusalem. Solomon acknowledges in 2 Chronicles 6:20 that God will hear the prayers of God’s people when they pray toward the Temple in Jerusalem. Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem from his captivity in Babylon, even after the Temple had been destroyed. (Daniel 6:10,11) Why, then, do most churches not consider it important to face Jerusalem? Let’s look at the account in John 4:4-42, where Yeshua meets the woman at the well. It has always been exciting for me to be in a place where so much Scripture has taken place. No one within HaYovel feels as if we chose Mount Gerizim (Mount of Blessing) to begin our work, but it has become clear to all of us, on many levels, that we are not here by accident. I’m not sure exactly when I was awakened to this significance, but the words of the Samaritan woman spoke directly to my own deeply rooted replacement understanding when she said in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Verse 21 seems to settle the issue, when Yeshua replies that soon we will not worship here or in Jerusalem, but then in verse 22 He lovingly but firmly fires a shot right at her Bible belt, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Unfortunately, a short time later, we see what the stranglehold of a false religion can do to a religious community. In Luke 9:51-53 we read that when it was time for Yeshua to be received up, His face was steadfast toward Jerusalem. Verse 53 may be the most sorrowful Scripture in all the Christian Bible. “The Samaritans did not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem.” I would like to submit that most of us still unknowingly share the same replacement religion as the Samaritans. Not only are we not facing Jerusalem, we reject the idea that our Messiah is facing Jerusalem. We are content in worshiping God on the mountain of our choosing – not His. What is the evidence that we or our congregations are practicing some form of replacement theology? Let’s look at a few examples of songs that are sung regularly in a typical charismatic Christian congregation. The popular songs “I’m Trading My Sorrows” and “This Is How We Overcome” get their inspiration from Psalms 30:5,11. This Psalm or song was originally written by King David as a dedication for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem or what is also referred to as the House of David. Is it possible that King David believed the Temple in Jerusalem would turn his mourning into dancing? Of course he did. Could it also be that Yeshua’s obvious frustration with the corruption in the Temple came from this place of knowing that His Father’s house could not be a den of thieves, but that it should be a House of Prayer – a place of worship and dancing? (John 2:13-17; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46; 2 Samuel 6:14,15) It was common when I attended church over the years for someone to quote Romans 10:13, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  If your Bible has a center column reference, you can see that Paul is quoting a verse from Joel 2:32. We can see the verse in its complete context, where Joel continues and says, “For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.” If the verse is quoted from Joel, which 100% of Bible scholars believe, then we have to also believe that deliverance or salvation would come from Jerusalem. For this discussion, let’s assume, like Joel does, that “Jerusalem” means the actual physical city of Jerusalem. You may have also heard someone say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts,” from  Zechariah 4:6. In context, again, Zechariah was a Prophet who inspired the rebuilding of the Temple in Ezra and Nehemiah. If you look at the next 4 verses, you can see that he is edifying Zerubbabel to build the Holy Temple, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this Temple; His hands shall also finish it.” It is important to say it may be possible for this verse to be used in a secondary application, but I believe and I think you would agree that the primary application is most important. If someone moves the secondary and/or tertiary application permanently to the primary position, this is not sound doctrine. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)    If you or your church has prayed that God would give you or someone else “Beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” then you just prayed a verse from Isaiah 61:3 that came from the Spirit of the Lord, specifically about Zion (Jerusalem). Again, is it okay to make a secondary application? Maybe, but why throw out the primary, as if it never existed?    Please hear me: I am not saying that we don’t need churches. We desperately need churches all over the world who are zeroed in on God’s prophetic plan. (Luke 16:31; Luke 13:24, 28-29) What we don’t need are congregations that teach a replacement ideology on any level. The followers of Yeshua 2000 years ago, those that sat at His feet – who continued in the faith – were in the Temple night and day, praying for the Redemption. (Acts 2 through 4)  The same Redemption in Jerusalem that Anna was praying for, when she witnessed Yeshua as a baby in the Temple. (Luke 2:36-38) As the Messiah makes His way back to the earth, are you excited that His face is once again set towards Jerusalem? “Men of Galilee, why do you stand (on the Mount of Olives) gazing up into heaven? This same Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion…” (Revelation 14:1) Please, do not reject the Messiah – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Embrace Him and the place His face is set to return, to bring the Divine Presence of God to His Holy Temple, to reign over the whole earth. (Luke 1:32,33; Zechariah 8:3;14:4 Ezekiel 37:24-28) There is still time for the Samaritans – I mean Christians – to worship God in Jerusalem. There is still time to follow the example and the teachings of our Rabbi, our King, our Messiah and face Jerusalem. Even a dog with terrible eyesight can eventually find its way home.       Tommy Waller  Founder and President,... Read MoreRead More

This Shabbat is the 9th of Av – Are You Remembering?

Note: This year, the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, July 21st, and therefore, the fast/commemoration has been moved to Sunday, July 22nd. The 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, which usually falls in July or August on the western calendar, is a traditional day of mourning in Judaism. Observances such as fasting food and water and restraining from pleasure and recreational activities characterize this day. In general, the day is an intentional time to mourn. Why such mourning? Why would an entire day be set aside to be sad, even afflicting the body by fasting? Sounds similar to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), doesn’t it? Does this have any connection to Christianity, and should we, as Christians, be mourning as well? The history of the 9th of Av began with the sin of the spies. When twelve men went to Canaan, and ten of the spies came back with a negative report, the people believed and accepted the lies, and as a result, God punished them with not being able to enter the Land. Traditionally, the night after the spies brought back the bad report began the 9th of Av, and the people spent it weeping and wailing over their misfortune. Throughout the centuries, a remarkable number of misfortunes have befallen Jerusalem and the Jewish people, and interestingly enough, many of them happened on the 9th of Av. The two most notable events that are marked on this day are the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians, and more than 600 years later, the destruction of the 2nd Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. 500,000 Jews were slaughtered by the Romans in the city of Betar at the culmination of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, the Temple area was plowed under by a Roman general just one year later, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492, the Final Solution in Nazi Germany was approved on this date, which ultimately led to the murder of 6 million Jews, the major expulsion of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto began on this day, and the list goes on. Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust – many significant tragedies during these periods in history happened on and around the 9th of Av. In today’s time, the 17th of Tammuz (when Jerusalem’s walls were breached at the destruction of the first Temple) marks the beginning of a period of 3 weeks, leading up to the 9th of Av, and starting nine days before, the 9 Day period is begun, culminating in the day itself. The custom in Judaism is to observe this day as a fast day, similar in stringency to Yom Kippur. From sundown the night before to sundown on the 9th of Av, no food or water is consumed. Bathing and washing are avoided, no leather shoes are worn, and much of the day is spent sitting on low stools or on the ground, reading passages such as Lamentations, and mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and the tragedies that have befallen the people of Israel over the years. All of this sounds interesting, but you may be wondering: “What does this have to do with us as Christians? Should we be mourning along with the Jewish people?” Recently, I’ve been reading through the book of Ezekiel, and a few days ago came across an interesting passage. While Ezekiel is in the midst of a vision from God, he begins to see many of the terrible abominations happening in Jerusalem and the Temple. In chapter 9, God calls to a man with an inkhorn to “. . . go through the midst of Jerusalem, and to put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (vs 4). Then God commands His soldiers to go throughout the city, beginning at the Temple, and to kill everyone who does not have the mark on his forehead. Because of the abominations, idol worship, and sins of the people taking place in the Temple, God’s justice must be enacted. Only those who sigh and cry over Jerusalem –  those who mourn the sins and wrongdoings taking place – are the ones who are saved! We see a similar story in the Gospel of Matthew, just before Yeshua died. In Matthew 23:37-39, our Messiah began to weep over Jerusalem, over her impending sins and coming destruction – ultimately, the destruction of the Temple itself! If our Messiah was mourning and weeping over Jerusalem’s sins and the destruction of the Temple, and if the only ones saved in Ezekiel’s vision were those who mourned the wickedness in the Temple, how much more should we as Christians participate in mourning the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and over the years, the slaughter of the Jewish people? As Christians, the sins of our ancestors were those that caused many of these calamities that the Jewish people are mourning this Tisha b’Av. The crusades, the Holocaust, and many more tragedies are attributed to Christianity! It is time for us as Christians to renounce replacement theology, and throw in our lot with the Jewish people by mourning, sighing, and repenting for the sins of the last 2,000 years, that have brought so much death and destruction to the people of Israel. Let’s be counted among those who sigh and weep for Jerusalem this 9th of Av.... Read MoreRead More

Update on the Grape Harvest with Joshua Waller


Joshua Waller gives us an early morning walk through in the vineyards on the Mt. of Blessing. This year’s Harvest trip is filling up, but there is still a big need for the 6 Week trip, which incidentally, might be the trip during which many of the grapes will ripen, meaning that we need lots of hands! Will you consider joining us for this trip? Dates are September 5th – October 17th, and the deadline to sign up is just a few weeks away! Click here for more... Read MoreRead More

New Video – What God is Telling You

Where do you need to be to find out the truth about what God is telling you? Meet Russell Perry from New Zealand and be inspired by his incredible recounting of the many miracles God has performed in his life in connection to the beautiful land of Israel. If you’re inspired by Russell’s story, consider taking the same leap that he did, and come to the heartland of Israel with HaYovel. Now is the perfect time to sign up for one of our Harvest 2018 trips. We have 2 week, 3 week or 6 week options. Check out all of the different... Read MoreRead More