"The overall number of poor people (in Israel) has reached 1.58 million (total population - 6.2 million); the number of poor households has risen to 430,000 and the number of poor children is now 738,000," stated the government's latest Poverty Report. Israel's distribution of wealth has become a central issue in the current campaign to elect our next Prime Minister. A recent television documentary revealed that 18 families control some 70% of Israel's financial assets.
In such an environment we must continue to distribute as much food, clothing, appliances and assistance as we can. Yet this is not enough. If we do not also address the need for decent jobs, we will consign Israel's poor, especially the new immigrants, to a life of welfare.
It is this need to enter and expand the Israeli economy that led me to help start a small business back in 1994 when I was still a new immigrant. In faith, a number of friends invested in that effort, for which I am ever grateful. It takes time to break up fallow ground. There has been fruit, but the "first crop" has been limited. My experiences and those of other Messianic Jews attempting to create businesses in Israel have taught us that it is not easy, but it is vital. As long as we are outside the sphere of economic ownership, we will remain marginalized.
The market place is where people primarily interact from day to day. We all need to make a living. It is time for Israeli Messianic Jews to take their place in the economy: the biblical orchards, fields and vineyards of which God said "I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations." (Ezekiel 36:30)
BACK to the LAND, DOWN to BUSINESS
This and other prophecies of the desert blossoming like a rose are keyed to the return of the exiles to the land of Israel. OK. We're back in the land. So what's our part in fulfilling these promises? Establishing indigenous, believer-owned businesses is an essential stage in the restoration of Messianic community in Israel. I believe that one of the practical and spiritual keys to achieve this is the working, praying partnership of Israeli Messianic Jews with visionary Christians who are committed to Israel's revival. I believe it's what Isaiah meant when he wrote that "The sons of foreigners will rebuild your walls." (Isaiah 60:10)
Such a servant of God is Bill Culwell, a former U.S. Navy officer, engineer and entrepreneur who loves the God of Israel and His Messiah with a passion. That passion led him to bond with Israel and to become a part of the Tents of Mercy family. His search for a way to make a difference in this land, brought him to the story of Hiram, King of Tyre (Lebanon). Hiram was the king to whom Solomon turned into order to build the Temple in Jerusalem. They made a covenant. Hiram provided building materials and Solomon gave him wheat and oil in return. In this relationship Bill saw a parallel with our time. God is rebuilding Israel through a covenant between Messianic Jews (Solomon) and Christians with a heart for Israel and for Messianic Jewish revival (Hiram). This inspired Bill to found the Hiram Foundation. Here he explains its purpose.
"Hiram is an organization that also has non-profit organization status in America and Israel, and, in partnership with Tents of Mercy Congregation, is proceeding with the establishment of a training center to raise up Israeli, believer-owned businesses."
"The training process is founded on the principles of discipleship as taught by Yeshua and is continuous once begun. The vision we have received from the Lord includes a facility where the training can take place, a staff to deliver the training and mentor the trainees, and a business incubator complex where the training can be applied in real-world situations."
"Graduates of the program will have the opportunity to partner with successful Christian business people from outside Israel to establish new businesses in Israel under covenants brokered by the Hiram Foundation which will ultimately result in the Israeli partners becoming vested in ownership."
Bill is no novice in the Israeli marketplace. In 1998 he and his wife, Jill, teamed up with an immigrant couple (Benny and Chedva) to found FILTECH, an air filter manufacturing company. Providing generous capital and expertise, Bill and Jill poured themselves into the effort. Today, after starting with nothing, FILTECH is humming along, under the ownership of that Messianic immigrant couple, discipled into profitability by the Culwells.
AKKO: A case study in economic need
Citing extreme economic distress, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared Akko, the historic city perched at the northern crest of the Haifa Bay, one of two "highest-priority" cities for economic development. Companies were moving out of the area. Tax revenues were sinking. Unable to provide for their families, residents were beginning to relocate. Sharon's choice was accompanied by tax benefits and an atmosphere of "let's try anything that might bring jobs." We have tasted that atmosphere in numerous discussions with the Akko city officials. Their receptivity to further working with Tents of Mercy, was built through several years of cooperating together in humanitarian aid efforts. When we presented the possibility of addressing area-wide poverty through creating new businesses, coached and capitalized by experienced business men from abroad, their eyes lit up. The door was open for a project to be launched in the Akko region. Touching the agrarian imagery of the prophets, the project was called "Fields of Hope."
FIELDS OF HOPE: A project for economic development
The Fields of Hope project is being implemented in two phases. First, we will establish a small manufacturing company in a leased building in Akko and that, God willing, will be in full production by the end of 2006. Hiram is now negotiating to lease 260 square meters, with an option to add another 260 square meters, all in a building that will need much cleaning up, painting, construction of offices inside, addition of lighting and heating and cooling with the commensurate electrical wiring, installation of commercial windows, laying of carpet, etc.
Vision + Gifting + Teachability + Coaching + Capital + Faith = Ownership
A key to indigenization is the transfer of ownership. Ownership of the "Fields of Hope" companies will initially reside with the Hiram Foundation. Gradual acquisition by the employee associates is envisioned as the Investor Partners are re-paid. Hiram Foundation's portion will be a continuing legacy payment that will fund the Fields of Hope Campus.
This is phase two, the construction and operation of the Fields of Hope Campus, hopefully beginning in 2007 with the Technical Training Center Building. The training center will be an "intake" for potential local entrepreneurs. Students will move through a tailor-made curriculum combining the obvious business skills of management, marketing, manufacturing, tax laws, and accounting procedures---with the kingdom economic values conveyed in Scripture: diligence, servant leadership, teamwork and respect for every customer.
"In faith we are expecting to establish dozens of businesses owned and operated by Israeli believers and dramatically change Israel's perception of Yeshua," declares Bill Culwell with deep conviction. "In faith we are committed to ensuring economic viability for congregations and individuals in Israel. These pioneers are reminiscent of Yeshua's early followers. In faith we will continue forging covenantal relationships with people from all segments of Israeli society, with Christian investor partners abroad and with successful entrepreneurs whose heart is to share their resources and knowledge with the people of Israel."
The directors of Hiram Foundation are Bill and Jill Culwell, Dave Fitzpatrick, Don Finto and Eitan Shishkoff. For more information, or to participate in the Fields of Hope, please contact Bill Culwell at: email@example.com or Dave Fitzpatrick at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Culwell and Eitan
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dan Juster: Muslim Tribalism and Biblical Liberation|
|Leora Mazurovsky: Single Moms, Treasured by God and Kehila|
|Asher Intrater: Discipleship Manual|
|David Shishkoff: Travel Log of Asia Trip|