By Arlene Bridges Samuels, Times of Israel—
Theodor Herzl is celebrated as the founding father of Zionism. He is a leader much admired in the pro-Israel Christian community. A lesser known figure though played a significant part in Herzl’s life, work, and thought. He is Rev. William Henry Hechler, whom Herzl called the “Father of Christian Zionism. Their close cooperation serves as a symbol and precursor of the growing friendship and connections we enjoy today between the Jewish and Christian communities. Like Hechler and Herzel, we are better together and stronger together. Below, I hope my thoughts will add another dimension to honor these Fathers of Christian and Jewish Zionism motivating us to stand together at this pivotal moment in history with the only Jewish state in the world.
History highlights many Christian Zionists
Three Christians are my favorite role models. British Major General Orde Charles Wingate is credited with laying the foundation for the Israel Defense Forces when stationed in Palestine beginning in 1936. He later died in a military operation in Burma.
Secondly, the beloved author Corrie ten Boom who was arrested, then imprisoned in a concentration camp for hiding Jewish families in her home in Holland. She lived to tell the stories of God’s greatness and inspired millions with her selfless faith. And last, my favorite theologian, the brilliant Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who eventually gave his life trying to rouse the German church to the Nazi danger. His leadership in the resistance movement landed him in Flossenburg where Nazis hung him a few weeks before the Allied liberation.
Who are we?
I define Christian Zionism this way. Foundational to our value system, we endorse the biblical “deed” God transmitted through scripture written by Jewish hands. In my view, the deed codifies in a legal sense God’s ownership of the Land of Israel and delegates its management to the Jewish people. Millennia have passed yet the deed and delegation remain. We defend the historical fact that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. We consider its modern establishment as part of God’s plan and embrace Isaiah 66:8: “Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Can a nation be established in a day?” We say a resounding “Yes.” Nineteen forty-eight fulfilled this statement when modern Israel experienced a rebirth unlike any other nation in history.