Daniel Swindell

My Legs Are a Different Color

My legs are a different color than my feet.  I might call it, Bedouin Brown. They are sun burnt and covered in sand.  When I take a shower, a pound of sand washes down the drain.  It would be pointless to try to locate the spot where my body hurts, because every muscle hurts.  Time for sleep.

I have volunteered for a short while on Shefa Israel, a medium-sized winery in the Negev Desert.  The owners, Boaz and Rina Dreyer, are Dati Leumi, or religious Zionists.  They came from South Africa to Israel almost 30 years ago because they believed God had called them back to the Holy Land.  For them, God, Torah, and the land of Israel are inseparable – one cannot exist without the others.  About ten years ago they came to the Negev to start their own farm.  In their minds, every time they lift a shovel, plow a row, plant a seed, trim a new vine, or cut the grapes – they are fulfilling a command.  Every moment of their lives is the fulfillment of a prophecy about the return of the Jewish people.  Boaz and Rina have shown me what it means to truly believe with all of your heart, mind, and strength that the restoration of Israel is the beginning of the redemption, and they are willing to pay for it with their sweat.

Rina is a mother to anyone who arrives on her farm; she is always worried that you have not had enough water to drink.  Boaz has fiery green eyes, which match his fiery personality.   Boaz explains to me that he could have stayed in South Africa and retired by the age of fifty, but instead, he is in the desert, past the age of sixty, working like a man in his twenties.  Boaz immediately begins to challenge me, challenge me on why I came to Israel, on what I am doing with my life, and on what I believe about God.  Sadly, I have to tell him that I don’t really know what I am doing with my life… that I am just basically hoping to find a large box of money one day.  But he doesn’t accept that.  He wants to bring out the best hidden inside me.  The same is true for everyone Boaz meets.

On the farm with me are two bright French girls, Anna and Estelle, both of whom quit their jobs as nurses to travel through Israel and then to Asia.  They told me they want to learn about religion from the land where it was born.  They have come to the right place.  When we break for lunch, Boaz explains to us the history of the Jewish people.  In this way, the farm functions as an embassy to people from all over the world.  Boaz explains that the farm is located in the Wilderness of Zin, and is mentioned in the Torah, in the book aptly titled, “In the Wilderness.”  The land is still a wilderness: pure sand sprinkled with brush, and the occasional lizard.  The only reason Boaz is able to grow grapes here is because of modern innovation – large amounts of water are moved through irrigation pipes all over the farm.

Boaz explains that after the Jewish people came out of Egypt and experienced the revelation at Sinai, they traveled to the Wilderness of Zin, knowing that God wanted them to travel from there to the promised land.  From the Wilderness of Zin, Moses sent twelve spies to bring back a report regarding the nature of the land of Israel, and what type of people were living there.  Ten of the spies returned with a bad report; only two had good things to say.  Sadly, the Jewish people panicked, listened to the bad reports, rejected the good, and decided they would not enter the land God had promised to them.  As punishment, God told them that because they rejected the land He had promised them, they would die off in the wilderness – that only their children would enter.  In effect, God punished them by giving them what they chose for themselves.

I am in the same place where the Israelites refused to go into the land and claim their future promises.  I am also unsure about my future.  I asked Anna and Estelle what they plan to do after they see Asia.  They said that there is no plan after Asia.  Maybe, somewhere deep down inside of us, that is why we came to the Wilderness of Zin, the same place where people were confused in the Bible.  And people have been reading about this confusion for over 3,000 years.  Maybe, that is also why Boaz and Rina are here – because they know God has a plan for every one of us, and they are here to help stir travelers to find their course.

On the farm next door, they sell cold drinks, and in the evenings all of the workers ride over on a tractor.  In the evening, I take a tractor ride, take a drink, and ask God to help me find my path.

About the Author
Daniel Swindell is a Zionist. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, and has studied in Yeshiva.