The second annual week-long B’Ney Yosef National Congress convened last Monday in Ariel, Samaria, bringing together over 130 representative from 12 countries to affirm that they are the spiritual descendants of the tribe of Efraim, returning at last to join their brother Judah in their ancestral homeland.
Taking their belief one step further than Christians who are seeking the Hebrew roots of their religion, the B’Ney Efraim see themselves as a non-Jewish segment of Israel, spiritual descendant of the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom. They are motivated by the prophecy in Ezekiel of two sticks becoming one.
And thou son of man take thee one stick and write upon it: For Yehudah and for the children of Yisrael his companions; then take another stick and write upon it: For Yosef the stick of Ephraim and of all the house of Yisrael his companions; and join them for thee one to another into one stick that they may become one in thy hand. Ezekiel 37: 16-17
Hanoch Young, a tour guide and public speaker from Modi’in who has been advocating for the B’Ney Efraim since 1994, spoke at the congress. He explained to Breaking Israel News that, as a religious Jew, he prays for the return of Yehuda and Israel.
Jews, the descendants of Yehuda, have returned to the land of Israel, but the prophesied return of Israel, the Northern kingdom, has yet to materialize, Young noted. The B’Ney Efraim claim to be the spiritual descendants of Israel that got sent out among the nations.
“At first, it was difficult for me to understand, since they aren’t Jewish.” Young said. “But then when I studied the Biblical sources, including Ezekiel 37, I realized this is the ingathering of Israel, happening right in front of our eyes.”
One discussion focused on the topic of religious Israelis’ reluctance to relate to pro-Israel non-Jews. The B’Ney Efraim are rejected by the religion they left behind, and challenged to find open doors into the nation they consider their spiritual home since religious Israelis are strongly anti-missionary.
Heinz Suter, a representative from Switzerland, explained to Breaking Israel News that the B’Ney Efraim do not consider themselves to be Christians. The B’Ney Efraim believe that Jesus – or Yeshua, as they call him – is the way to return to Israel for those who have strayed. As such, a connection to Jesus is absolutely not relevant to Jews, who never strayed.
Many at the congress felt that Israelis were more accepting of B’ney Efraim this year. Jesse Jury from Washington state described his experiences in Jerusalem during the holiday of Simchat Torah.
“I was at the Kotel (Western Wall) when a group of yeshiva students started pulling us into the circle to dance with the Torah,” Jury told Breaking Israel News. “We hesitated, explaining that we were not Jewish. They pulled us in, one of the students saying, ‘We especially need you, now.’”
Al McCarn, the executive director of the B’Ney Yosef North America, and Pete Rambo, the operations director of B’Ney Yosef North America, had a similar experience at the community of Kiryat Yearim on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where they were staying for the holiday. They attended the Simchat Torah prayer service at the local synagogue, making it clear they were not Jewish. When the congregation began dancing, Rambo and McCarn were enthusiastically pulled into the circle.
“In the evening, they even gave us Torah scrolls to dance with,” explained Rambo. “This was a new experience: holding the Torah and this level of acceptance. It was very encouraging.”
Young told Breaking Israel News that there has been a positive change in grassroots acceptance. “More people are beginning to realize that these people they are encountering are Ephraimites,” Young said. “But change is coming very slowly.
“This was the 3rd year in a row that Ephraimites marched behind the banners of United 2 Restore at the Parade of Nations. Many Israeli are beginning to recognizing them as Christians with tztitzit (fringes) but no kippa (head covering),” Young said.
“There is no recognition from any rabbinic authority, and perhaps the only politician who knows who they are is Rabbi (MK) Yehuda Glick,” Young said.
One of their biggest obstacles, as for many pro-Israel Christians, is Israeli immigration law. It essentially makes it impossible, or incredibly difficult, for non-Jews to make aliyah, something the B’Ney Efraim very much want to do.
Dr. Adler told Breaking Israel News that as a religious Jew, she found the ensuing discussion compelling. “I recognize in them a movement close to what the Torah calls ger toshav (a non-Jew living in Israel, following the Noahide laws) and I honor the process they are engaged in,” she said. “I am inspired by their desire for truth and the price they are willing to pay to come close to God.”
B’Ney Yosef is a small but growing movement with members scattered all over the world. The international element added several surprises and highlighting the ‘ingathering’ aspect. Approximately half of the participants were from the United States, but the second largest contingent was the Netherlands, which had 20 representatives.
Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, addressed the congress, describing the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity.
The B’ney Yosef movement is discovering, sadly enough, that connecting with the Jewish People and Israel can come at a price. Bulkunu reported that the Church opposes the Hebrew movement among the Aboriginals, and a Pakistani delegation related how, as Christians in a Muslim majority nation, they are oppressed, but as supporters of the Jewish people and Israel, they are doubly so.