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‘We're Christian folk, we really came to bless Israel’ - How a group of American farmers came to work during the war

9 volunteers from a farming community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania came to work in Israel's south

Farmers working on irrigation in Deqel, Israel. (Photo: ALL ISRAEL NEWS)

Doug Hershey is no stranger to Israel. The author of Israel Rising and Jerusalem Rising has visited the land many times. What impresses him each time, is the reality of fulfilled prophecy visible everywhere you look. 

However, writing and teaching about the fulfillment of prophecy wasn’t enough for him, so with his great love for the Land of Israel and all the people who live there, Hershey also founded EzraAdventures, providing personalized trips to Israel and the Middle East which “combine service projects, biblical sites and adventure options immersed in Israeli culture.” 

Hershey says he was struck by the idea that people could be a part of the prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets who spoke of Israel's restoration. 

He has brought several groups with an agricultural focus to Israel, fulfilling the words of Isaiah 61:5: “Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.”

After the war in Gaza began in October, Hershey started to learn about the crisis in Israel’s agriculture sector, especially in the Gaza Envelope.

Farming in the Gaza Envelope involved a mix of local farmers, Israeli workers and volunteers, but primarily thousands of Palestinian and international workers who worked the fields prior to the war.

Almost 20,000 Palestinian workers came to work in the fields and kibbutzes in the Gaza Envelope before Oct. 7. After the horrific Hamas invasion – when Israel discovered that some of the Palestinian workers had been used as informants by Hamas, and ahead of the ground incursion into Gaza – the Israeli government forbade entry to all Palestinian workers from Gaza. 

EzraAdventures made that need known to several people, including Nelson Shertzer, who once visited Israel with the organization. He reached out to say that he would be able to bring a group. 

Shertzer is a farmer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and most of his congregation works in agriculture or has a background in farming. He wanted to bring a group of nine volunteers to work in Israel’s stricken farming community. The congregation, he said, has a great love for Israel. 

“We’re Christian folks, so the Land and the people here are important to us from a biblical perspective, so we really came to bless Israel,” he said. 

Despite the relatively small size of the group, Shertzer explained that the team “could put their hands to the work and get it done” due to their vast farming experience and background. He said that they also understood the impact of untended fields.

The group assisted an elderly couple that owned strawberry fields in Deqel, (about 4 miles from the Egyptian border and 5 miles from Gaza) and had lost many Thai workers and would have likely lost most of their strawberry crop. The farmers helped harvest the entire field so the strawberries could get to market instead of rotting on the plants. 

Helping pick strawberries in Deqel, Israel. (Photo: ALL ISRAEL NEWS)

Nelson's brother Jim, and another one of the farmers said that watching the news about Israel in the United States made him feel helpless, but he wanted to do something.

When the trip was announced in the congregation, Jim knew he needed to join the team and “help in a tangible way.” 

The group also helped a farmer named Danny, who not only lost his workers after the war but had to serve in the military for almost five months as a reservist. 

Danny returned to his home a couple of weeks before the first volunteer team arrived. With his family evacuated to the north, his young mango orchards were neglected and the yard around his home became overgrown.

The farmers were able to help with arranging fertilizer and irrigation in his fields, finish welding projects, including a trellis for growing grape vines, and do some landscaping in the property around the house, which had been untended during Danny’s absence. 

Hershey said EzraAdventures plans to bring more volunteer groups to serve Israel.

Click here to learn more about the opportunity.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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