Kingdom of Priests

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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