AND THE JEWISH RESTORATION
by Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to the United Nations
- 1985 -
|I AM VERY GRATEFUL to you, and deeply honored, to accept this Proclamation of Blessing on behalf of the people and govern-ment of Israel. At times, during the bleakest days of the past decade, we always knew we could count on those who would not be swayed by political fashion or by the lure of Arab money.
There were those whose sense of history, whose sense of morality, whose very essense link them to the people of the Book and
to the rebirth of Israel in our time. I mean, of course, the men and women in this room.
Now recently the press has made much of the support of Evangelical Christians for Israel. Many have been puzzled and surprized by what they consider to be a new-found friendship. But I suggest that for those who know the history of Christian involvement
in Zionism, there is nothing either surprizing nor new about the steadfast support given to Israel by believing Christians all over the world.
For what, after all, is Zionism but the fulfillment of ancient prophecies? Jeremiah 31:10 tells us: "He that scattereth Israel, will gather him." Isaiah 11:12 tells us: "He shall assemble the outcast of Israel and gather the dispersed from Judea." And Ezekiel 36:24 tells us: "For I will take you from among the heathen and gather you out from all countries and bring you into your own land."
There was an ancient yearning in our common tradition for the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel. And this dream, smolder-ing through two millennia, first burst forth in the Christian Zionism of the 19th Century - a movement that paralleled and reinforced modern Jewish Zionism. British and American writers, clergys, journalists, artists and statesmen all became ardent proponents of facilitating the return of the Jews to their desolate homeland.
There was, for example, Lord Lindsay who wrote in the 1840's that the "Jewish race, so wonderfully preserved, may yet have another stage of national existence open to them, may once more obtain possession of their native land." And there was George Grawler, who in 1845 urged: "Replenish the farms and fields of Palestine with the energetic people whose warmest affections are rooted in the soil."
This was not only a current of idealism. Practical plans were actually drawn up for the return of the Jews. In 1948, Warder Cresson, the American Consul in Jerusalem, helped establish a Jewish settlement in the valley of Refraim, supported by a joint Christian-Jewish society in England. And Claude Condor, an aide to Lord Kitchener carried out an extensive survey of Palestine, concluding that the country could be restored by the Jews to its ancient prosperity.
What I am trying to sketch, however briefly, is the long intimate and ultimately successful support given modern Zionism by powerful forces working with the Christian community from the 19th Century on, a support that expressed itself in the literary
of the day in passages that are hauntingly prophetic. Listen, for example, to the writings of the great English writer, George Elliot, who foresaw in that influential novel of Zionism. "Daniel Deronda", the Rebirth of Israel:
"There is a store of wisdom among us to found a new Jewish polity, grand, simple, just like the old - a republic where this equality of protection, an equality which gave (our ancient community) more than the brightness of Western freedom amid the despotism
of the East. For there will be a country in the East which carries the culture and the sympathy of every great nation in its bosom."
And this kind of prophecy found its echo in practical men - men who believed with all their hearts in what seemed to so many others a sheer fantasy - the rebirth of Israel after two millennia. Consider for example, Edwin Sherman Wallace, the U.S. Consul
in Palestine, who in 1898 wrote: "My own belief is that the time is not far distant when Palestine will be in the hands of a people who will restore it to its former condition of productiveness. The land is waiting, the people are ready to come, and will come as soon as protection of life and property is assured. . . . . . This must be accepted or the numerous prophecies that asserted so positively must be thrown out as worthless. . . . (Yet) the present movements among Jews in many parts of the world indicate their belief in the prophetic assertions. Their eyes are turning toward the Land that once was theirs and their hearts are longing
for the day when they as a people can dwell securely in it.
The writings of the Christian Zionist's, British and American, directly influenced the thinking such pivotal leaders as Lloyd George and Arthur Belfour and Woodrow Wilson at the beginning of this century. These were all men versed in the Bible. These were
men whose imagination was ignited by the dream of the great ingathering. And these were all men who had a crucial role in laying the political foundations, internationally, for the restoration of the Jewish State. Thus it was the impact of Christian Zionism on Western Statesmen that helped modern Jewish Zionism achieve the rebirth of Israel.
A sense of history, a sense of poetry, a sense of morality imbued the Christian Zionists who more than a century ago began to
write and plan and organize for Israel's restoration. And standing in this room today, I detect that same kind of impassioned faith, that same sense of history and morality. But now it is not Israel's rebirth that is at stake, but ensuring its future. And your support is as indispensable to us as the support of your predecessors, the Christian Zionists of a century ago, was to the founders of Zionism.
So those who are puzzled by what they consider the new-found friendship between Israel and its Christian supporters reveal an ignorance of both. But we know better. We know the spiritual ties that link us so profoundly and so enduringly. We know the historical partnership that worked so well to fulfill the Zionist dream. And we know, and value, the depth and the steadfastness
of your commitment and friendship, as we build, and rebuild, the dream of Zion in the Land of Israel.
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