The Untold Story

The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern‐day Israel

The church is rightly criticized for centuries of Christian anti‐Semitism, but what
is overlooked is the pivotal role British Christian Zionists played in the
establishment of modern‐day Israel. Almost all books written about the Zionist
movement focus on the early Jewish leaders, their creativity and courage in
making the impossible a reality, i.e., the restoration of a Jewish state in the land.
But Jewish involvement in modern Zionism did not begin until the mid to late
1800ʹs, whereas British Christian leaders were advocating the restoration of a
Jewish state in the land for the prior 200 years. The theology of British Puritans
with regard to Godʹs plan for the Jewish people so influenced British public
opinion that governmental leaders in the 19th century began maneuvering
international events towards the re‐establishment of a Jewish Israel, culminating,
of course, in the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 establishing Palestine
as the homeland for the Jews.

Jews lived in England as early as the 11th century. But the perpetuation of
medieval anti‐Semitic myths caused the expulsion of the Jews from England in
1290. Following King Henry VIIIʹs decision to sever ties with the Roman church
and the increasing availability of the Scriptures, the Puritan movement took hold
in England. The Puritans were known to take the Scripture literally, but also
believed that civil government should be based on the Biblical model, largely
that of ancient Israelʹs. As they scoured the Scriptures, beginning in the 1580ʹs the
Puritans authored various treatises on Jewish salvation and Godʹs plan to restore
the Jews back to their land. The height of Puritan involvement in government
came during the Cromwell Republic of the mid‐1600ʹs. The Puritans had
overthrown the monarchy and attempted to establish a Puritan state in England.

This same period coincided with the horrible slaughters of Jews in Eastern
Europe following the end of the Thirty Yearsʹ War. The chief Rabbi of
Amsterdam, Holland, Manesseh Ben Israel, concluded that Jews were not safe in
Eastern Europe, but rather safety lie with the West, and particularly with the
Puritans. He discovered in the Scriptures that the coming of the Messiah was
linked to the Jews being scattered to the ends of the earth, and in Hebrew the
word for ʺendʺ was the same as that for ʺEngland.ʺ Consequently, he wrote a
pamphlet called, ʺHope of Israel,ʺ proposing that the Jews be invited into
England in fulfillment of prophecy. Ben Israel knew that the Puritans were very

interested in Biblical prophecy and the plight of the Jews, so he successfully
made an appointment with Cromwell and convinced him to support the
immigration of Jews into his country. Thus, the banishment of Jews from
England ended and with it began a series of articles and books from renowned
British, including John Milton and John Locke, supporting a Jewish state.

In 1733 Sir Isaac Newton suggested an interpretation of the prophet Daniel
necessitated another nation assist the Jews to return to their land. By the late
1700ʹs Englandʹs major papers began discussing the issue. In 1799 Joseph Priestly,
a well‐known British scientist wrote a book addressing the Jews and said,
referring to Israel, ʺthe land is uncultivated and ready to receive you, but the
Turks control it. Their power must first fall. Therefore, I earnestly pray for its
dissolution. But it may not happen for sometime.ʺ This was followed by another
book, The Restoration of the Jews ‐ the Crisis of All Nations, by Thomas Witherby
who proposed England would be ʺa new Cyrusʺ and be Godʹs instrument to
restore the land to the Jews. In 1819 another book, Call to the Christians and the
Hebrews, by Theaetetus, proposed Jews and Christians combine efforts for reestablishment
of the nation of Israel.

By now the proliferation of both theological and philosophical works proposing
the return of land to the Jews was so widespread that politics was effected. In
1838 at the urging of a Christian Zionist, Lord Shaftesbury, Britain established a
consulate in Jerusalem, the first diplomatic appointment in the land of Israel.
This was followed by the appointment of Michael Solomon Alexander as
Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, the first Jewish bishop of Jerusalem since 135 C.E.
In 1853 the Crimean War erupted between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The
British and the French both sided with the Turks, assisting them in the defeat of
the Russians. The Paris Treaty of 1858, concluding the war, granted Jews and
Christians the right to settle in Palestine, forced upon the Ottoman Turks by the
British for their assistance in the war effort. This decision opened the doors for
Jewish immigration to Palestine.

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 Theodore 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 relationshhips 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 Weitzman. 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 Weitzman and another Christian Zionist,
Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary. Balfour asked Weitzman why was
Uganda rejected and why were the Jews hung up on Palestine. Weitzman
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. Weitzman 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 Weitzman. Near the end of the war the British Prime
Minister, Lloyd George (another Christian Zionist), called for Weitzman to offer
him an award for his assistance in the war effort. In a classic statement,
Weitzman 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

Copyright © 1998 Jamie Cowen. Used by permission of the author.