Evangelicals harvest land in settlements Israel hopes to annex

It's harvest time in the hilltop vineyards of Shilo settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

But it's not Jewish settlers picking the grapes, it's evangelical Christians.

They're volunteers for the American evangelical group HaYovel that brings Christians to help Jewish farmers in settlements.


As American evangelicals have been big supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, so to are they staunch supporters of Israel.

They see a biblical connection with the Holy Land.

Tommy Walker is HaYovel's founder.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOMMY WALLER, FOUNDER OF HAYOVEL, AN EVANGELICAL GROUP THAT BRINGS VOLUNTEERS TO HELP FARMERS IN WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS, SAYING:

"As a Christian, or as a Bible person that believes in the Bible, for me it was an amazing thing to finally get to a place where, where my faith was touchable, where I could read. Because we, we share a commonality between Christianity and Judaism, and that's our Bible, our scripture."

But it's also land at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The West Bank is home to around 2.9 million Palestinians and 400,000 Jewish settlers.

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made annexation of parts of the West Bank a re-election campaign pledge.

A position that the politically powerful U.S. evangelicals have embraced.

It's also a pledge that alarms the Palestinians and they fear it would win Trumps backing.

Izzat Said Qadous lives in a nearby Palestinian village.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) IZZAT SAID QADOUS, 65, RETIRED SCHOOL TEACHER, SAYING:

"These lands belong to us, inherited from our fathers and grandfathers, we did not buy these lands not from the Arabs nor from the Jews. We inherited these lands from our great grandparent. We have had these lands for thousands of years."

For Palestinians, it's just another mark against their hopes of an independent state.