Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

More on How Christians Invented Zionism

Rabbi Gil Student, who writes the always fascinating and learned Hirhurim blog, drops by to comment on my assertion that Christians invented Zionism. He points to a book that attributes early proto-Zionist thoughts and deeds to the students of the Vilna Gaon, who himself lived between 1720 and 1797.

Even if you were willing to grant that the Gaon’s students counted as true Zionists — in the sense of calling for setting up a full-service Jewish state in the land of Israel prior to the coming of the Messiah — and I find that hard to believe, but even so, Christians still have us beat.


In his book Power, Faith, and Fantasy, Michael Oren traces the Christian Zionist intellectual trend back a century before the Vilna Gaon was born. Reviving Jewish statehood, writes Oren:

was neither new nor unique to American Protestantism. Evocations of the idea can be found in Sir Henry Finch’s 1621 treatise, The World’s Great Restauration, or, The Calling of the Jews, as well as in the poems of John Milton and the philosophy of John Locke. En route to the New World, the Puritans took the concept with them to Holland, where they petitioned the Dutch government to “transport Izraell’s sons and daughters…to the Land promised their forefathers…for an everlasting Inheritance.”

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This is idiocy

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:11 am

Longing for Israel is a central tenet of Judaism. Read any Jewish prayer service.

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David Klinghoffer

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:31 am

An elementary distinction is needed here. There is a big difference between longing for and loving Israel (see Psalm 137), on one hand, and advocating the use of force if necessary to establish a state there with all the trappings prior to the coming of the Messiah. I’m not taking a view here on which represents the more authentic Jewish stance in our era of Exile, but they are different attitudes and different stances.

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Gil Student

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:53 am

Thank you for teaching me this. I think it is worth pointing out, although you don’t make such a claim, that there is little possibility that the early Jewish Zionists were influenced in any way by the Christian Zionists who preceded them. All you have proved, and all you have set out to prove, is that Christian Zionists preceded Jewish Zionists. I find that fascinating.

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Your Name

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:07 am

Tere is a diference between abstract ideas that no Jew heard about them, and those thousands of the disciples of the Gaon of Vilna who belived in redemption through return,facilitate it, and build Jerusalem as the first stage towards a Jewish entity.

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posted April 13, 2009 at 11:10 am

I chimed in on this conversation on my blog. Here’s what I had to say:
The disagreement between Klinghoffer and Student seems to hinge entirely on the idea that Zionism was invented in modern times and that the connection between the Jews and the Land of Israel was of a passive nature until that point. It may be more correct to view Zionism as an evolving process which began in biblical times and developed over the years. During the long exile from Israel, Jews prayed for return and even occasionally moved to the Land of Israel but the conditions under which they lived in Christian and Arab lands did not allow them to take any practical steps toward establishing a state. When the Jewish situation improved and political changes took place which allowed the dream to become closer to reality, Jews took full advantage. Even then, it was a long process until the dream was fulfilled.
But Zionism is not some modern invention dreamed up by some Christian theologian or philosopher.

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posted April 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm

To say that xians invented modern zionism is like saying that the Incas perfected heart surgery. It’s stupid, ignorant and downright patronizing. Read any Traditional Prayer Book and you’ll see the affirmations of Israel’s connection to G-d AND TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL and hope of return. If you would have read your Haggadah from the Passover (next, you’ll be saying it’s a xian holiday), it concludes with “next year in Jerusalem”.. guess you failed to get that.
What IS this obsession on the part of some Jews to .. for want of a better word, SUCK UP to xians who traditionally have been the most rabid of its persecutors. And don’t give me this nonsense that those who persecuted the Jews weren’t “real xians”. Their History and theology say otherwise. And don’t give me this nonsense about it only being the Catholic church. EVERY Reformer from Luther, to Calvin to Wesley was genocidal anti-semite. And don’t give me this whole schtick about evangelical xians being Israel’s greatest supporters. Yeah.. while they spend Millions of dollars annually to convert Jews. Watch TBN, watch the Inspirational Network, watch any mainline network. They pray and finance that the Jews be converted.
It’s sickening that now some schmecky assimilated Jews now praise xians for giving them Zionism. What’s next? G-d Help Us!!!!!

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