One of the benefits of living in modern Israel is the physical connection with the Bible. Two American families moved to Yavne’el in the Upper Galilee and personally witnessed Jacob’s blessing to Naftali come to fruition right in their backyard.
When the Veffers moved to the Upper Galilee town of Yavne’el, the Biblical roots were clear. Israel is divided into regions based on the Biblical tribes and the land they inherited. Yavne’el (Jabneel) is in the region corresponding to the tribe of Naftali. It was one of the Biblical border towns of the tribe of Naftali mentioned in the Book of Joshua.
And their border was from Heleph, from Elon-beza-anannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakkum; and the goings out thereof were at the Jordan. Joshua 19:33
On his deathbed, Jacob blessed each of his sons with a prophetic vision for their tribe. Naftali’s blessing was concise and open to interpretation.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, an 11th century French Torah scholar known by the acronym Rashi, explained that this prophetic vision referred to the Ginosar valley in the land designated to the tribe of Naftali. Just as a deer is swift, the fertile land in the region designated to Naftali would allow the fruit to ripen quickly. And, in fact, the Upper Galilee is a strikingly fertile and lush region.
Seeing this region blossom brings a powerful message. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) says that there is no surer sign that the Messiah is imminent than when the prophecy of Ezekiel appears.
In a manner that transcends nature, the relationship between the Jews and the land of Israel is so powerful that, according to the prophecy, the land was to remain barren until the Jews returned, at which point it was to give forth abundant fruit. And this is indeed what has happened in recent history.
Rabbi Shmuel Veffer witnessed this first-hand. When he moved to Yavne’el seven years ago, he was pleased to see the date palm in his garden ripen and bear fruit. Much to his surprise, after he harvested the fruit from the lone tree in his garden, he discovered that it had produced 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of fruit, more than enough for he and his family for an entire year.
He witnessed this abundance again two years ago when he and his wife Chana helped the local community’s olive harvest. They were able to press their own olives and were amazed at the results. The quality of the oil far surpassed anything they had ever tasted. Together with another couple, they decided to give others the chance to experience this blessed abundance by founding Galilee Green to sell fresh olive oil from Israel to consumers in America.
“We also wanted to create a business that would help support other local immigrants and struggling families,” explained Rabb Veffer to Breaking Israel News. “It’s much more difficult to find employment here in the Galilee than in the major centers of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”
As an added benefit, efforts like this help counteract the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which unfairly targets Israeli products.
“This is a way for people in America to identify positively with Israel and be included in the blessing that comes directly from the land,” said Rabbi Veffer.
The blessing of Naphtali includes many fruits and, in fact, it is a fertile area with farmers planting whatever crop is most lucrative. When the country was young, citrus and cotton were popular crops. The blessing of the land has helped farmers change with the times; today, many farmers consider mangoes to be the best return on investment.
A quick tour of the region reveals numerous archaeological digs with ancient olive presses. In Biblical times, olives were grown for oil, and not for eating whole. The oil was used in food, like it is today, but Biblical times it was also used in lamps as the best source of home lighting.
On a spiritual level, olives are a reminder of Israel spreading the Torah to the world. In Shir HaShirim Rabba (1:21) , a collection of homiletical teachings on Song of Songs compiled in the fifth century, Jewish sages wrote, “As this [olive] oil brings light to the world, so too does Israel bring light to the world.”
Rabbi Veffer sees a strong parallel to the teaching in his work. “Ours is the story of the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Jewish People. We have come back to settle the Land, and partake in the blessing and miracle of the Land bringing forth her fruits for her children,” explained Rabbi Veffer. “Now we are sharing that blessing with families all over the world.”