Anonymous sponsors and UCG collaborate on video trip
Several Church of God members and others recently embarked on a cooperative effort to, in Steven Collins' words, "serve God and publicize a biblical truth."
Mr. Collins, a Church of God member from Sioux Falls who has written many articles and a book on the "lost 10 tribes" of Israel, visited the nation of Israel to do research that supports the thesis that the United States, Britain and certain other nations are the Israel of the Bible:the lost 10 tribes.
Mr. Collins toured with Howard Davis, a United Church of God elder from Portland, Ore., and photographer David Hofer. They met up with Yair Davidy, an Israeli with some of the same interests, to produce a movie Mr. Collins hopes will spread the word about the identity of Israel.
Following is Mr. Collins' report to The Journal.
The author has been a member of the Sabbatarian Churches of God since 1969 (Worldwide Church of God, Church of God International, Association for Christian Development and United Church of God). He is the writer of the book The "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel . . . Found!
By Steven M. Collins
SIOUX FALLS, S.D.--Recently several groups and individuals came together in a remarkable cooperative effort to serve God and publicize a biblical truth. Their cooperation occurred as part of an effort to make a one-hour videotape on the subject of the history and modern locations of the so-called lost 10 tribes of Israel.
The video is tentatively scheduled to be available in January. Readers of The Journal will likely be encouraged by the cooperation that developed to make this project possible. It further indicates that the Spirit of God can bring diverse people together to serve His purposes.
The article you are reading relates personal experiences, a remarkable video effort in Israel and the cooperative relationships that developed.
As some readers know, I have worked for almost a year to write a four-volume set on the history of the 10 tribes of Israel and their modern locations.
Those who read my first book, The "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel . . . Found!, will find the new set of books to contain more documentation, maps, photos and illustrations than the first. The new volumes, which will more persuasively proclaim the truth that God has kept His promises to the tribes of Israel throughout history, was made possible because of the support of a group of Christian sponsors with the financial resources to support various Christian efforts.
The sponsors of the new books are conservative members of Protestant churches who wish to remain anonymous. They learned the truth about the 10 tribes of Israel from other sources before they became aware of my book. When my book did come to their attention, they offered to fund an improved and expanded version of it so it could be a more useful vehicle for informing the public about the biblical truths regarding the 10 tribes' history and modern locations.
They believe it is important to wake up the modern Israelites to their true history and heritage in order to motivate more people to repent and return to the keeping of God's laws.
Call from Mr. Davis
Howard Davis of Portland, Ore., a minister in the United Church of God, an International Association, who is the producer of an independent television program linked to the UCG's Web site, became aware of my new book project and asked my local UCG pastor, Herb Teitgen of Sioux Falls, for my phone number.
Mr. Davis called me and asked whether my book sponsors and I would be interested in the production of a videotape about the history and modern locations of the 10 tribes.
I responded that I would convey his interest in producing such a video to my book's sponsors. I acted as an intermediary between Mr. Davis and the sponsors while Mr. Davis's proposals for the video were refined into a final form that outlined themes, cost projections and other factors.
Eventually an agreement came about, and the sponsors of my book agreed to fund Mr. Davis's proposal for producing a video about the 10 tribes. At that point Mr. Davis also began working directly with the same people who are sponsoring my book.
Once it was evident that the anonymous sponsors would approve the project and that it would involve on-site taping in Israel, I also contacted Yair Davidy in Israel to determine if he would like to participate in the project.
Mr. Davidy is a native of Australia. He grew up in a home with one Christian parent and the other an Orthodox Jew. He moved to Israel in 1974. He has no background in the Worldwide Church of God or other Churches of God.
Mr. Davidy is author of several books on the history and locations of the 10 tribes. His books, The Tribes, Ephraim and Lost Israelite Identity, provide a Jewish perspective on the subject. He cites Jewish sources of which Christian writers are generally unaware.
Mr. Davidy and I were familiar with each other's writings on the subject; we had been in occasional contact over several years. Besides participating in the project, he offered to put us in contact with rabbis who were willing to go on camera in the video effort. These rabbis, all Israelis, had become convinced of the 10-tribes doctrine through reading Mr. Davidy's books.
The project grew in scope, and complex travel and videotaping arrangements had to be made to accommodate its planned content. Mr. Davis would not only produce the video but would personally do the on-site camera work.
Another UCG member, David Hofer, would also be present on the trip as a still photographer.
My anonymous sponsors originally proposed that I accompany Mr. Davis and Mr. Hofer for taping in Israel, Spain, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and Britain, but they scaled back their proposal to my being present with Howard and David for only a week in Israel.
Even that was a major effort for me because I've encountered several health problems the last few years that would have precluded my consideration of such travel as recently as a year ago.
The trip to Israel was planned for August, which is also the height of the tourist season in Israel. This fact, combined with the need to travel around Israel to many locations, meant our party would move around and not stay in one place for the entire trip.
My trip from Sioux Falls to Israel crossed eight time zones and included a long layover in Frankfurt, Germany. It began in the late afternoon of Aug. 14 when I left Sioux Falls, and it ended when I arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, at 1:45 a.m. Aug. 16 local time.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Hofer arrived in Israel after taping in Egypt. I met Mr. Davis for the first time when my flight landed in Tel Aviv.
After clearing customs in Israel, we drove to Jerusalem in a rented car, and, after a few wrong turns in the middle of the night, we were talked to our destination by Mr. Davidy over Mr. Davis's cell phone.
After being aware of each other's work on the 10 tribes for several years, Mr. Davidy and I met for the first time in a darkened street in Jerusalem at about 4:30 a.m. Aug. 16. By then I had not slept since I had awakened the morning of Aug. 14 in Sioux Falls.
Yair had graciously arranged for us to be accommodated at a friend's apartment in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Bukharan during our first night in Jerusalem.
I crashed for a few hours. The next day our group moved for one night to a hotel near the border of the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem.
That hotel had no vacancies for a second night, so we relocated to a downtown Jerusalem hotel in the Jewish sector for the next three nights.
During those three days, videotaping occurred at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives looking down at the Temple Mount area, and at many museums and other sites with archaeological significance. During this time Mr. Davidy and Rabbi Avraham Feld, director of the Maccabee Institute, were instrumental in the success of the undertaking.
Because of the gracious efforts of Mr. Feld, we taped archaeological exhibits at museums that ordinarily do not allow either movies or still photography.
In Jerusalem's Hebrew Union College's exhibit area, we were given a tour of the exhibits by the museum curator herself. Her commentary made the exhibit's significance come alive to us in a way that ordinarily would not have been possible.
Rabbi Feld also took us down a set of stairways to an excavation area a couple floors below the current streets of the Old City of Jerusalem to view portions of the original city wall of King Hezekiah.
Assyrian arrowheads from the siege of Jerusalem have been found in or by this ancient wall. This was the wall before which God sent an angel to slay 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (2 Kings 19).
While we were in Jerusalem, two acts of special hospitality were extended to us by Yair Davidy, Rabbi Feld and our Orthodox hosts.
First they took us as their guests to the Friday-night prayer service at the Wailing Wall, the most sacred site in Judaism. This is the remaining wall of the Second Temple period, and many readers have, no doubt, seen the wall on television documentaries and news reports.
It was a moving experience to be there and stand at the wall's base amid a large grouping of observant Jews, most of whom wore the familiar black garb of the Ultraorthodox.
Howard, David and I wore temporary kipahs, the head covering Jews believe is needed to show respect for God and the site.
Yuri, one of our new Jewish friends, pointed out to me the chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, who was standing a few paces to my left. Yuri reminded me that, just over the Wailing Wall on the Temple Mount, King Solomon had prayed at the dedication of the First Temple that God would hear all prayers directed to him at that site.
Yuri added: "That's not just a story. It really happened."
I agreed that it really did happen. It's a moving experience to stand so close to a site that has repeatedly experienced God's actual presence on earth.
The second act of great hospitality was our hosts inviting Howard, David and me to a Sabbath meal the next day in an Ultraorthodox Jerusalem neighborhood called Bukharan. Bukharan and its adjacent neighborhood, Mea Sheiarim, make up the district of Jerusalem in which the streets are barricaded to bar the entrance of automobiles on the Sabbath. Orthodox Jews do not make use of technology (TVs, computers, etc.) on the Sabbath.
We walked from our hotel with Yair through Mea Sheiarim on the way to Bukharan, an unforgettable experience. Here we were in a major modern city walking down the middle of a street in which children were playing. The sounds of technology were so far away that we could hear the birds sing in the urban quiet. People walked with their families on the streets, and children played in city parks in an incredibly peaceful environment.
For the first time in my life I was in an urban area where, literally, everyone within a large area scrupulously observed the Sabbath. It made us think of the millennial prophecies about the Kingdom of God (that is, the messianic age), when children shall play safely in the streets of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:5).
As the Sabbath day ended we enjoyed a traditional Jewish Sabbath meal with our hosts. It was an evening of good fellowship across cultural, national and religious lines that I will never forget.
Visit to Yad Vashem
One day while we were in Jerusalem, Howard Davis, David Hofer and Rabbi Feld went to Bethlehem for taping at the Cave of the Patriarchs while Yair Davidy and I spent the day getting to know each other better and sharing some scholarly views on ancient history.
We visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Nazi holocaust, which graphically presents the horrors of the World War II death camps and memorializes efforts to resist the Nazis. It is impossible to be unmoved as you walk through the building that contains the evidence and photographs that catalog this grotesque period of human brutality perpetrated by the Nazis.
The photo riveted most in my mind is one of a terrified expression on a small child's face at a death camp just before he was led off to be gassed.
While Yair and I were at Yad Vashem, many hundreds of young Israeli soldiers also visited the exhibit. They were everywhere, each with his (or her) automatic weapon over his shoulder.
Yair and I then went to the Holy Land Hotel and saw an extraordinary scale model of the city of Jerusalem as it existed in the first century, during the life of Jesus and the siege of the city by the Roman army under Titus.
The model takes up as much space as a large backyard in an American neighborhood. The city walls, the Temple Mount area, the palace of Herod and the homes of commoners and wealthy alike are constructed to scale in this impressive depiction of ancient Jerusalem.
A few days later Mr. Davis videotaped the model with his professional equipment.
When in Jerusalem one quickly grows familiar with the conspicuous presence everywhere of Israeli soldiers with M16s. These weapons are a necessary precaution against terrorism, but they make one aware of how peaceful America is in that we do not need to have armed soldiers patrolling our streets and guarding our shopping districts and bus stops.
After several days of taping and touring, we journeyed to the north of the Israeli nation in a two-car caravan in which Howard, David and I were accompanied and escorted by Yair, Rabbi Feld and one of Yair's and the rabbi's friends who was wheelchair-bound.
We were late getting out of Jerusalem because of difficulty in obtaining the second rental car. As we left the city I found it invaluable to have Yair in the same car as I. He would point out to us historical biblical sites as we passed them, and he noted whenever we passed from the ancient territory of one of the tribes of Israel into the territory of another.
During our trip through the northern part of the nation it was instructive to have Yair point out the ancient tribal territories of Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, Naphthali, Zebulon and Issachar as we passed through them.
It was easy to see why the Bible refers to the territory of the tribe of Ephraim as Mount Ephraim because it is a region of rugged hills and valleys. Much of the area north of Jerusalem, often called the West Bank, is semiarid and denuded of topsoil. The remnants of ancient terraces around the hills offer evidence of past efforts to grow crops when there was soil on those rugged hills.
Seeing the land now, it is hard to visualize it as the land of milk and honey during the time of Moses and Joshua. It is a remarkable achievement that the Israelis have made the land as productive as it is.
We taped at the site of ancient Shiloh, now a Jewish settlement atop a hill surrounded by Arab villages. The settlement has a synagogue with a replica of the ancient altar (complete with the horns of the altar) that stood at Shiloh. It was at Shiloh that Hannah wept and beseeched God for a son who turned out to be Samuel, who also ministered to the Lord at the tabernacle-temple of God at Shiloh.
It was sunset when our two cars were ready to depart Shiloh. We were reminded of the security situation that prevails in an area where Jewish settlers have established towns such as Shiloh. The road to the settlement was already barricaded, and men of the settlement were armed at the guard shack. They removed the barricade for us, and we began a long nighttime journey that was to end in the far north of Israel.
Where to spend the night
After a few hours of driving through the Palestinian zone at night, we descended to the northern Jordan River Valley near the Sea of Galilee, driving by the historic city of Beth-Shan. We did pass through one Israeli army checkpoint in the Palestinian-inhabited region, but our cars were waved through when the soldiers realized Israeli citizens were among us.
As we drove through the valley we could see the lights of Arab towns on the eastern side of the Jordan River in the nation of Jordan.
We ate a late supper in the city of Tiberias, then continued on to the northern city of Qiryat Shemona. This city was often shelled by Syrian artillery when Syria possessed the Golan Heights.
We pressed on, looking for a place to check in and sleep (by this time it was the wee hours). We drove through a town called Yuval, but nothing was open.
Our cars split up as we looked for a place, and at one point Yair and I walked along a high fence as we returned to the car after knocking on the door of a closed rooming house.
We looked at the fence and saw a row of concertina wire spreading endlessly in either direction along the inner side of the fence. An open space beyond the wire led to another row of wire and another high metal fence with barbed wire on top of it. Light towers were spaced at intervals as far as we could see. We were standing on literally the last few meters of Israeli territory. That fence was the military border between Israel and Lebanon.
Finally, at about 4:30 in the morning, we found a small room available at a kibbutz called HaGosherim. Yair, his wheelchair-bound friend and I shared the two-person room and considered ourselves lucky. Howard, David and Rabbi Feld slept al fresco.
In the morning Howard filmed at the ruins of Tel Dan (as in "from Dan to Beersheba") while Yair and I wheeled our friend to a late breakfast.
While we ate we looked up at the massive shape of the Golan Heights that dominates the view of the Hula Valley. It is easy to see its critical military importance and understand why a small nation like Israel would be loath to give it up after sacrificing many lives to capture it in a war.
Surprised at Nazareth
We drove southward again, passing many fields with a variety of crops north of the Sea of Galilee. That part of Israel, with its fertile soil, looks like the American Midwest.
We drove by the base of Mount Tabor, where Barak and Deborah rallied the northern tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali against Sisera (Judges 4-5).
Continuing to Megiddo, we could see Nazareth atop the heights on the right side of the road.
When we arrived at Megiddo, and climbed to the top of the hill and the site of the archaeological excavations, we could still see Nazareth across the Valley of Jezreel atop a small mountain. This was doubly a new realization for me. I had always assumed Nazareth, the city associated with Christ's life in the Bible, lies in a flatland area. My assumption was incorrect.
I also never realized that Nazareth looks down upon the Valley of Jezreel, which Christians often call the Valley of Armageddon. Armageddon is derived from the Hebrew expression har Megiddo, which simply means hill of Megiddo. An immense expanse dominates the Valley of Jezreel, which sprawls out into the distance and to the left and right when one looks down on the valley from atop Megiddo. This place is mentioned in Revelation 16:16. There is indeed enough room for vast armies to fight and maneuver in the valley below Har Megiddo.
Megiddo has excellent and extensive ruins that have been excavated down to various levels. The excavations have uncovered buildings and fortifications dating to the reigns of Kings Solomon, Ahab and Jeroboam II. Ancient Israelite engineers were skilled; they dug a watercourse a third of a mile (if I remember correctly) through solid rock to channel a stream into a pool that was inside the fortified walls of Megiddo but several stories below the surface of the city. An enemy outside the gates would have no clue regarding the city's water source.
Mr. Davis took shots of the excavations on Megiddo and the expanse of the Jezreel Valley.
After we left Megiddo we drove to Caesarea on the shore of the Mediterranean. Caesarea boasts remarkably preserved Roman ruins.
Howard interviewed Yair and me for the 10-tribes video by the impressively preserved Roman aqueduct by the shoreline.
As the sun set into the watery horizon of the Mediterranean, I wondered how many Israelite and Phoenician eyes had seen that same sight three millennia ago. After sunset we drove all the way back to Jerusalem that same night. The next morning Yair, Howard and I went to the Holy Land Hotel for videotaping of the extensive model of first-century Jerusalem.
Then Howard and David had to pack their equipment and luggage for an afternoon flight to Spain.
That evening Yair Davidy and two other of our new Jewish friends and I ate a dinner together. Then it was time for us to part.
Steven's long day
After a final walk along King George V and Ben Yehuda streets to sample the atmosphere and culture of Jerusalem one more time, I returned to the hotel to pack. International flights sometimes make for crazy schedules. I had to wake up at 2 a.m. and take my prearranged taxi ride to the airport for a flight that departed at 5:30 that morning.
Thanks to the miracles of modern travel, Aug. 24 would be for me something like Joshua's long day. It had begun at midnight Jerusalem time. But, because of my crossing eight time zones between Jerusalem and South Dakota, that day was eight hours longer than the usual 24.
Although I had returned to the United States after nine days, Howard and David would be gone several more while traveling through several European nations, the African nation of Tunisia (for taping the ruins of Carthage) and even Russia.
Russian museums house some of the best original Scythian artifacts. Those who have read books on the 10 tribes likely realize that the Scythians, also called the Sacae, were the descendants of the exiled and relocated tribes of Israel that still bore the name of Isaac in their Asian homelands.
Victor Kubik of Indianapolis, Ind., a member of the UCG's council of elders, joined Howard and David in Russia to serve as a guide and interpreter for that portion of the video project.
What was accomplished by this trip?
We worked to produce an excellent video proclaiming the truth of God's prophecies about the 10 tribes. The facts about the migrations and modern whereabouts of these tribes should emerge from this effort.
I hope this video will be a tool to glorify God and inform many modern Israelites about their heritage and the need to return to the God of Israel and His biblical laws.
Mr. Davis deserves credit for originating the concept of the video, which is tentatively scheduled to be ready around January. Those who will see it will learn that, in addition to Mr. Davidy, Rabbi Feld and me, other persuasive voices support the doctrinal and historical viewpoint of the modern identity of the 10 tribes.
That this video will even exist at all is a tribute to the development of a willingness on the part of God's people to cooperate with each other across the national, cultural and religious boundaries that usually divide them.
The willingness of Christian Sabbatarians to work with other Christians who are not of our Sabbatarian tradition, but who are just as sincere about serving God and Jesus Christ, is noteworthy.
One in 7,000
When Elijah thought he was the only one left in all Israel who served God, he was stunned to learn that God had 7,000 people serving him in Israel about whom Elijah knew nothing. In these latter days we are discovering that God has His people in many places. It is vital that the people God is working with be able to work with each other across organizational and cultural lines.
There may not be a lot of time left in this age. Christians who want to serve the God of our fathers and Christ need to be able to unite their efforts without requiring others to be doctrinal clones of ourselves.
Although the video project was funded by people not within the United Church of God, the project sponsors magnanimously agreed to share with the UCG equal future access to all videotapes and still photography generated as part of the project.
This footage will be an invaluable asset as the United Church of God develops television programs and other projects.
Additionally, there was extraordinary cooperation and brotherly fellowship between "Torah-observant" Christians such as Howard Davis, David Hofer and me (who observe the weekly and annual sabbaths and the meat laws) and our new Orthodox Jewish friends from Israel.
Mr. Davidy, Rabbi Feld and their friends seemed as eager to reach out to us as we were to them to build a relationship that can serve the God of Israel in the future.
They are part of a growing body of Orthodox Jews who have an expectation that members of the modern 10 tribes of Israel will reestablish ties with the house of Judah in the latter days preceding the messianic age.
It is my belief that God will draw the modern descendants of Israel and Judah closer together as we near the time of what The Journal's readers would call the Kingdom of God, which begins after the latter-day era concludes.
Ezekiel 37:15-28 prophesies that at the beginning of the millennial Kingdom of God the house of Israel and the house of Judah will reunite into one nation under the rulership of a resurrected King David.
Since we know it is the will of God to reunite Judah and Israel at the beginning of the Millennium, is it not reasonable to expect that God will prepare people in advance from the modern tribes of Israel to be a part of that divine effort?
Those of us who participated in the planning and videotaping of this project repeatedly saw the hand of God open doors for the project and grant miraculous assistance to make it come to pass.
Perhaps in the Christian-Jewish cooperation that was involved in this project we have begun to see some of the cooperation between modern Israel and modern Judah that Ezekiel 37's prophecy should lead us to expect. I sincerely hope so.
Readers of this article can be sure that, when the video is ready, information about it will be released to The Journal.
We will let you know as soon as it is available, and you will be informed of any other future projects that may develop from these cooperative relationships in the future.
May God be glorified that such cooperation has come to pass.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God