A group of American cowboys from Montana and Arkansas answered a call for help from Israelis in need of labor as the war with Hamas has caused foreign agriculture workers to flee, and reservists to leave their day jobs to fight in Gaza.
“I actually left several hundred tons of hay still on the field back home,” Ezekiel Strain, a farmer from Montana, told The Daily Wire. “When I heard the war broke out, this was the important thing to do.”
Strain is joined by his brother Yoseph Strain, John Plocher from Montana, and Luke Hutslar from Arkansas.
Since they arrived a couple of weeks ago, the group has worked in Judea and Samaria building security roads and volunteering on farms. It filled hundreds of boxes with peppers picked for a local farmer that had been called up to the reserves.
“If they weren’t here, those peppers wouldn’t be getting picked like they are today,” said Joshua Waller, the director of operations of HaYovel, the group that brought the cowboys.
HaYovel is an organization started by Waller’s father nearly twenty years ago that brings Christian Zionists to volunteer in agriculture, primarily at vineyards in Judea and Samaria.
“We bring help to the farmers,” Waller said, explaining that its never been more important than right now. “For the last 20 years we’ve been helping, but right now after October 7 these guys are in a huge crisis.”
The cowboys have gone viral in Israel, catching the attention of many Israelis who are thankful for American support.
“They’re calling us ‘The Cowboys,’” said Plocher. “It’s funny because they have this certain image of what a cowboy is, you know, drinking, cussing, and whatever. All those aren’t necessarily true.”
A group of American cowboys is in Israel to help with construction and farming, with so many Israelis called up to the military reserves. @KassyDillon was with the group today as it picked peppers.
Here’s their message to the people of Israel: pic.twitter.com/4qSTJMyGPk
— Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) November 10, 2023
The group has all been to Israel before to volunteer for Waller’s group, and plans to stay for a few weeks. The cowboys said they are not deterred by Israel being at war because they realize how essential it is that agriculture and construction projects keep moving.
“A lot of the fathers and men are on the border there so there’s a lot less people here to do the work and they need the help,” said Ezekiel Strain. His brother, Yoseph Strain, said that the need of Israel surpasses any concern of his about safety.
“People said you should wait, wait until it’s safer but there’s no reason to wait,” he said. “If this is when they need us, then this is when we are going to come.”
Plocher said the group wanted to do more than just support Israel with words.
“Nowadays people support a lot with their lips and say they support, but not a whole lot of people actually stand up for what they think,” he said. “So when I was given the opportunity to come, I wanted to come.”
The cowboys have also been making trips to meet Israelis including attending a barbecue with locals, visiting the wounded, and visiting the family of Rose Lubin — an American killed in a terrorist attack earlier this month.
Waller said that bringing the cowboys is part of their mission they titled, “Operation Ittai” after the non-Jewish commander in King David’s army in 2 Samuel 15:19-23.
“We said, ‘Hey, what a fitting name,’” Waller said. “Israel is in a really tough spot right now, we need non-Jews to come and be a part of strengthening the Jewish community.”
HaYovel is also raising money to give equipment to Jewish villages and towns in Judea and Samaria that are in risky areas.
“Here in this region that we’ve been serving with for 20 years, it is a bit of a vacant spot. Nobody is thinking about it, nobody is talking about it, but really this is the fourth front of the battle,” Waller said “We’re surrounded by about about two million Arabs and about 500,000 Jews here, and we have our hands full.”
So far the group has raised $2 million of the $29 million that it hoped to raise to fulfill requests given by the Jewish villages.
“We didn’t realize what that meant when we said yes,” Waller said. “This is supplies like bulletproof jackets and helmets, nightvision, and even flashlights — some of the communities don’t even have flashlights.”
The group contributed 26 drones, two of which caught terrorists, according to Waller.
“I just want to be here and help,” Plocher said. “I didn’t expect to be able to encourage the Jewish people on this level and I am humbled by it and just glad that I can.”