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For Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees, more than 100 Christian Zionists raised over $10,000 to plant dozens of trees in Israel's biblical heartland.
The fundraising campaign--which was spearheaded by Rabbi Tuly Weisz, founder and CEO of Israel365--organized the planting of olive trees in the Jewish community of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion and in the Jewish section of Hebron.
"Our Christian tree donors are not only looking to help fulfill biblical prophecy, but to strengthen the Jewish presence throughout the land of Israel," said Weisz.
"The orchards we planted in Bat Ayin are stopping the Palestinian land grab and fortifying the Jewish communities in Gush Etzion. The trees we planted at Maharat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron) strengthen our roots in a place that Bible believers hold so dear," he added.
The Christian donors were able to watch the tree planting through a broadcast on Facebook Live by Weisz, who read aloud the donors' names and blessed them during the ceremony.
When Evangelical Christians started giving money to Israel 35 years ago, their money was not always welcomed, because their motives were questioned.
Today, however, it is widely accepted - and even celebrated - by the Israeli government that Christian Zionists pour hundreds of millions of dollars toward Israeli causes each year, including for settlement expansion. A 2009 report by National Public Radio said Christian Zionists are raising millions of dollars for the settlements, which critics view as an obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
These Christian Zionists, however, see it as their religious obligation to "bless those who bless you," as it states in Genesis 12.
"Tears welled up in my eyes and I bowed my head down in prayer," said Beth Madras, a Christian Zionist supporter from New York, about seeing her name read at the planting on Facebook. "I love Israel and Jerusalem with all my heart, and I pray for the people every day... I will be sure to do this year after year after year."
The Lord says in Isaiah 41:19, "I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, that they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel created it." Isaiah's words amplify a prophecy appearing 9 chapters earlier when he said God would make the "wilderness a fruitful field and the fruitful field a forest" (32:15).
The land of Israel is 60% desert and 2800 years ago--long before modern irrigation--it was unimaginable that a forest of trees would cover that barren wilderness. In fact, when Mark Twain visited Israel in 1867 he described the terrain as "rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary . . . with hardly a tree or shrub anywhere . . . a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.
Since the early 1900s, Israel has planted more than 240 million trees! A direct fulfillment of a prophecy given 2800 years earlier! And Isaiah said when this sure sign of the times occurred, and the desert became a forest, people should recognize that "the hand of the Lord has done this"!
Why does the Lord issue this prophecy of trees appearing in Israel? What is its purpose? It is for the same purpose the Bible uses prophecy throughout its pages. It is to convince people that a sovereign God rules the world and knows exactly where He is leading it.