The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern‐day Israel
A pivotal event occurred in 1868 with the election of Benjamin Disraeli as British Prime Minister. Disraeli, a Jewish Christian who strongly regarded his Jewish heritage, wrote in an 1877 article entitled, ʺThe Jewish Question is the Oriental Quest,ʺ that within 50 years a nation of one million Jews would reside in Palestine under the guidance of the British. Around the same time George Eliot, the great British novelist wrote her book, Daniel Deronda, about the struggle of a Jewish person to retain his identity. She propounded the idea that Israel become a nation of vision for the Jewish people. The book was translated and read by a Russian Jew named Yehuda Perlman who became convinced that a modern state
of Israel was the ultimate answer for the Jewish people. He later changed his name to Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew and an early Zionist.
Up to this point the idea of a resurrected Israel resided only in the hearts of most Jews. But things radically changed with the appearance of Theodor Herzl, who in his pamphlet the Jewish State began to turn the far‐fetched idea of a Jewish land in Palestine to a believable reality for many Jews. What is little known about Herzlʹs work was the critical role played by another British Christian Zionist, William Hechler. In 1897 following an ultimately disappointing meeting with the Sultan of Turkey, Herzl became distraught about the future of Zionism. Somehow Hechler found a copy of Herzlʹs Jewish State and became so excited that he searched Herzl down around the world. Herzl found Hechler to be a
religious zealot but became interested when Hechler could provide Herzl entré to the German Kaiser and later the British Prime Minister.
In an extremely humorous story as related by Herzl, he tells of the meeting with the Kaiser. Herzl had been preparing for weeks for the meeting, intending to show the Kaiser the political advantages to Germany to declare Palestine a future homeland for the Jews. When the meeting day arrived, Hechler accompanied Herzl into the meeting because he knew the Kaiser personally. Before Herzl could say a word,
Hechler whipped open his Bible and began discussing Biblical prophecy with the Kaiser. Herzl was appalled, seeing this as another lost opportunity. But to his amazement the Kaiser is convinced by the Scriptures to support the concept.
Later Hechler also provided open doors for Herzl to meet with the British
leadership, the relationship that bore ultimate fruit, although at the beginning the Zionist story took a bizarre twist. Britain did not want to upset the delicate balance of relationships in the Middle East, so as a short‐term solution, the British offered Herzl and the Jews the land of Uganda as a respite. Herzl reluctantly accepted the offer, but at the next Zionist Congress the offer was resoundingly rejected. The following year Herzl died. A new Zionist leader emerged ‐ Chaim Weizmann. The British government continued to apply pressure on the Zionists to accept Uganda as a temporary shelter, but things changed in a pivotal meeting between Weizmann and another Christian Zionist, Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary. Balfour asked Weizmann why was Uganda rejected and why were the Jews hung up on Palestine. Weizmann responded by suggesting the tables be turned and he offer to Balfour, Paris instead of London. Balfour replied that the British currently had London but the Jews do not have Jerusalem. Weizmann said, ʺWe had Jerusalem when London was a swamp.ʺ That was enough to persuade Balfour to begin to argue for Palestine for the Jews.
Of course, all of these discussions and arrangements were restrained by the fact of the Ottoman Empireʹs continued control of Palestine. This changed in World War I. The Ottoman Turks sided with Germany. Germany and the Allied powers bogged down along the German/French borders. Millions perished. The British were in desperate need to enhance the power of their explosives in order to win the war. The person who discovered the chemical processes to do just that was the chemist, Chaim Weizmann. Near the end of the war the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George (another Christian Zionist), called for Weizmann to offer
him an award for his assistance in the war effort. In a classic statement,
Weizmann declared, ʺI want nothing for myself but rather a homeland for my people.ʺ As a result Lloyd George directed his Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, to issue what became known as the Balfour Declaration, proposing Palestine become a homeland for the Jewish people. A month later a British military force led by General Allenby overthrew Ottoman rule in Palestine, and Britain now became the ruling sovereign in the area.
Isaiah prophesied that the Gentiles would bring the Jewish people back to their land (Is. 49). The remarkable story of the British Christian Zionists was, I believe, a fulfillment of that prophecy. The establishment of the modern state of Israel is directly related to God awakening and then directing a certain people to cooperate with Him in His plan for the restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland.