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The Christian Role in Israel’s Rebirth

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14 Apr 2021
The Christian Role in Israel’s Rebirth

As we mark the miraculous rebirth of Israel 73 years ago, it is important to also recall some of the unheralded Christians who assisted the Zionist movement in that critical moment when the Jewish State miraculously re-emerged on the world scene.

For more than a century prior to modern Israel’s establishment, well-known Christian politicians and clergy had laid the moral and historic foundation for the Zionist movement’s eventual successes. In fact, it was British diplomatic chaplain William Hechler who befriended Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, and became its ‘foreign minister’ by introducing Herzl to many of the leaders of Western Europe in their day. Also notable are a trio of British military officers who helped restore the Jewish fighting spirit in the years between World Wars I and II – Col. John Henry Patterson, Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, and finally Col. Charles Orde Wingate.

There were, however, two lesser known Christian pastors who played key roles in the UN’s decision to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947, which paved the way for Israel’s independence some six months later.

In February 1947 the United Nations appointed 11 member states to the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to conduct an inquiry and propose a solution to the “unworkable” British Mandate. The committee came to the Land that summer to investigate the deteriorating situation first-hand.

They were impressed with Jewish advancements in the land. The plight of some 250,000 Jewish refugees stuck in European refugee camps also weighed heavily on the committee. Desperate efforts to bring them to Palestine were blocked by Britain’s pro-Arab policies and naval blockade along the coast. The sad ordeal of the Exodus-1947, a ship packed with 4,500 desperate Holocaust survivors, caught UNSCOP’s attention that summer.

Rev. John Stanley Grauel, a Christian sympathiser with the Zionist cause, had volunteered as the vessel’s only non-Jewish crew member and witnessed the British assault on the Exodus off Haifa. He rushed to Jerusalem and gave compelling testimony before the committee; how the ship was rammed seven times, then boarded by armed sailors who shot and clubbed to death defenceless boys.

“The Exodus had no arms,” Rev. Grauel insisted. “All they fought with were potatoes, canned goods, and their bare fists.”

The refugees eventually were returned to Germany. The tragedy stretched out several months before a worldwide audience, fuelling the committee’s growing sense of its humanitarian mission.

Rev. William Hull also impacted UNSCOP that summer, especially Canadian delegate Justice Ivan Rand. Also from Canada, Rev. Hull had ministered in Jerusalem since 1935 and knew first-hand of the injustices visited upon the Jewish community by British and Arab alike. Over dinner one evening, Justice Rand listened to Hull’s views and later admitted their encounter clarified his understanding of the dispute and gave him new appreciation for Zionist endeavours. Rev. Hull also submitted a letter to the full committee setting forth in a powerful way the case for Biblical Zionism.

Since Canada was part of the Commonwealth, Justice Rand’s anti-British leanings held great sway. In a sense, he became “the conscience of the committee.”

Following his lead, the majority of UNSCOP recommended partitioning the Land into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Partition Plan (Resolution 181) was adopted by a vote of 33 to 13 in the UN General Assembly. The Jewish Agency accepted the decision, but Arab leaders rejected it and immediately launched hostilities. By the time the British Mandate ended on 14 May 1948, Arab-Jewish fighting had resulted in a de facto partition and the Jewish people were poised to declare the rebirth of their ancient nation.

When David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of Israel in late afternoon on 14 May, the conflict between Jews and Arabs escalated as five Arab armies launched an invasion seeking to “drive the Jews into the sea” and claim the land for themselves. The struggling Jewish forces were joined by foreign volunteers, including a number of Christians who came to help defend the new-born Jewish state. One of them, Derek Bowden, was a veteran British paratrooper during World War II and went on to train the victorious IDF’s elite paratrooper’s brigade.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;

Make sure to also watch the ICEJ Webinar on the topic “Christian Role in Israel’s Rebirth”, featuring David Parsons, Jerry Klinger and Sam Philipe, from Thursday, 15 April 2021, on the ICEJ’s YouTube channel.



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