Louis Theroux Meets Jewish and Christian Ultra-Zionists

On Thursday evening the BBC broadcast Louis Theroux and the Ultra Zionists, a documentary about Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Theroux is always worth a watch, although there are few surprises this time: the settlers come across for the most part as passive-aggressive (or just plain belligerent) and self-righteous, citing their divine “chosenness” by God as the reason for their presence in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. Theroux spends some time with Daniel Luria of Ateret Cohanim – an organisation which has featured on this blog previously – and they make a trip into Silwan, an area I blogged on here.

Of particular interest was a segment filmed at the Mount Blessing winery at Har Bracha (the location wasn’t named in the programme). Here, American evangelicals arrive by coach to work for free for a month at a time, bringing in the wine harvest. They explain their reasons for coming; according to one volunteer, Martin from Denver:

This is a labour of love for the nation of Israel and for the people here, to see that they prosper in the West Bank and help them fulfil the prophetic calling that’s on this land.

A second volunteer explains further:

It’s about acting out the love that we have. The bible talks about not just loving in word but also in deed and in actions. And so when you pick a vine and a cluster of grapes and you get to hold them in your hands, it’s like, it’s like you’re part of prophecy, you’re part of scripture. You’re part of the promises that God has made.

A third – a young man – expresses a wish to join the IDF:

They’re the chosen people, you know… it’s kind of something I’m coming into, just with the revelation you get being here. It’s good stuff.

The vineyard’s owner, Nir Lavi, explains that the Christians can bring the grapes to the factory, but are not allowed inside, since the process of wine-making has to be kept kosher. Lavi agrees that for the Christians, their wish to “serve” him is spiritual (“through this they are redeeming themselves”), but that they have less understanding the politics (“they don’t come on the political side”). Some photos taken around the same time as the programme was made can be seen here.

The programme does not mention which group organised the Christians’ involvement, although a New York Times article from July has the background:

Various strains of American pro-settlement activity come together in Har Bracha… Nearby, a winery was built with volunteer help from HaYovel ministries, which brings large groups of volunteers to prune and harvest. Mr. Ha’Ivri’s charity promotes the program.

The winery’s owner, Nir Lavi, says his land is state-sanctioned. But officials in the neighboring Palestinian village of Iraq Burin say part of the vineyard was planted on ground taken from their residents in a parcel-by-parcel land grab.

Such disputes are typical for the area, as are the opposing accounts of what happened that February day when HaYovel’s leader, Tommy Waller, and his volunteers say they came under attack and the shepherd was shot.

“They came up screaming, slinging their rock-slings like David going after a giant,” Mr. Waller said. A Har Bracha security guard came to the rescue by shooting in the air, not aiming for the attackers, he added.

…In the last year, he said, he brought 130 volunteers here. This coming year, he said, he expects as many as 400.

The HaYovel website is here.* “Mr. Ha’Ivri” is David Ha’Ivri, who is regularly puffed by WorldNetDaily, and the NY Times notes his Kahanist background. The charity discussed in the article is Shuva Israel; according to its website, Ha’Ivri is now on the board of advisers, alongside a number of Christian Zionist figures.

Last week I noted how an evangelical television station was supporting the creation of a forest on the site of a Bedouin village which the Israeli authorities have deemed to be illegal, and in 2008 I blogged a BBC documentary about a Christian Zionist coach tour to Israel.

*UPDATE: Based on a cursory browse, I originally incorrectly identified this site as belonging to Waller. Apologies for the error.

7 Responses

  1. Hello Sir ~

    I am the author of the blog you incorrectly advertised as Mr Tommy Waller’s website. To my knowledge, he does not have a personal website.

    I am unfamiliar with your blog and your views shared here and I’m curious as to what you might find offensive about Christians wanting to be a help to the Jews of Judea and Samaria. Mr Waller’s group, as you pointed out, is not interested in politics but in doing good things to support Israel. Would you mind clarifying your perspective?

    Thank you ~

    • Thank you, I have fixed the error.

      In response to the query, if Waller wants to do “good things to support Israel”, he would be better off working with moderate Israelis and Palestinians rather than a militaristic far-right fringe who are not supported by most Israelis in Israel proper. I’m sure it’s exciting for his followers to think that they are “part of prophecy”, but it’s immature and they are playing out their fantasies at the expense of other people. In this context, the claim that he is not interested in politics is disingenuous.

      What’s Waller’s gospel message for the people of Iraq Burin, by the way? Is it “Get lost”?

      • “What’s Waller’s gospel message for the people of Iraq Burin, by the way? Is it “Get lost”?”

        I know Mr Waller a little and cannot speak for him but I am certain that he and I would both agree that there is a concern for all the people. However, Mr Waller’s task is to participate in the restoration of Israel. There is a big difference between wanting to harm your neighbors and get rid of them by any means, and wanting to live peacefully in the land of your ancestors.

        As for whether or not their work is supported by “most Israelies”, I have heard reports, seen interviews and heard directly from Israelis who do support the Jews of Judea and Samaria and are intrigued by the work the Waller family and other groups is doing. We must get our information from different sources.

        It is a difficult political situation, to be sure. But not all things are motivated by politics or anger.

        ~ Lisa

  2. Watching Louis Theroux’s recent programme about ultra-Zionists in the Occupied Territories, I sat numbed with horror at the aggressive self-righteousness of the people who flaunted their unforgiving bigotry. What hope of peace with unbalanced extremists like this?

  3. The documentary made for inevitable disturbing viewing.

  4. …In the last year, he said, he brought 130 volunteers here. This coming year, he said, he expects as many as 400.
    So the owner is using unpaid foreign labour. Does Israel have a trades union organisation, or some similar body that represents workers? if so, they should be protesting about this.

  5. I have fond memories from Louis’ amusing escapades. But they all boil down to the looks of incongruity the Nazi/Jewish settler/Crackhead etc’ give Louis when they realise he just doesn’t know what fucking time it is. Louis is the wrong guy to send anywhere in the world, where important and topical events are happening. He doesn’t understand anything, always the naive and lovable nerd. As a documentarist, his favorite technique is to mechanically spew a siries of dull-witted yet provocative questions. Louis has documanted more people with the “Are you stupid?” look on their face than any other journalist in history. And I do believe that looking at the mirror presents the same results to him. Louis is an adorable little robot with absolutely no understanding of human relations of any kind. He never displays any warmth, or creates some sort of human rapport with any of his annoyed ‘costumers’.
    I mean – back in the ’90, it was kind of funny to watch the most incompetent man for the job, mingling with criminals, terrorists, psychotics. But, c’mon! to watch a cult member, living with her husband, his 17 other wives and 50 kids in a 2X2 trailer AND still giving you that “are your parents first cousines?” look… man, that’s precious! and it happens every fucking show!
    A radical settler asks Lois, in a deserate attempt to show some warmth:”Are you an atheist?” – Louis responds:”It’s very comforting”. Had louis pondered the punishment that the all-existing demiurge inflicted upon the rest of us – by instating him as our ‘gate to the world and its mysteries’ – he would realise that its much more comforting (For him) to believe in the Gods of vulgar TV. ok bye.

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