Question: Who was the most important person used by God to found the State of Israel?
A. Harry Truman, the thirty-third president of theUnited Statesand the one who recognized the State of Israel?
B. Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism?
C. David Ben-Gurion,Israel’s first prime minister and the one who proclaimedIsrael’s statehood?
D. Menachem Begin,Israel’s sixth prime minister?
Stop! Don’t read any further until you make a selection.
I’ve researching a major book that will be a classic and a first on the history of Christian Zionism. It will be released in August 2012.
Now for the answer to the question.
If you said B, Theodor Herzl, that would be incorrect. Herzl was a lawyer by training and spoke no Hebrew or Yiddish. He put up a Christmas tree in his home, and didn’t bother to circumcise his son. He deserves a lot of credit for his book, The Jewish State, and his vision of a state, but he believed that his army would have silver-breastplates and his modern cities would play cricket and tennis. Herzl’s words at the first Zionist Congress in 1897 were prophetic, “If I said aloud that there would be a Jewish state, I would be greeted by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years or certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.” Herzl proposed a homeland inCyprus or around Al-Arish in the Sinai. When the proposal was turned down, he accepted a proposal thatUganda or perhaps part ofKenya would be a Jewish homeland.
If you said A, Harry Truman, it wasn’t him either. Truman, like Herzl, was an instrument of God, but he and his administration were initially opposed to recognizingIsrael. His secretary of state, George Marshall, did everything possible to prevent it. Truman was not the first to recognizeIsrael—it was Stalin. Truman acknowledged in his memoirs that the top Christian Zionist leaders in theUnited Stateshad put pressure on him to promote Jewish aspirations inPalestine. He deserves credit for being a part of prophecy, but he wasn’t the most critical person in the process ofIsrael’s rebirth.
If you said C, David Ben-Gurion, you would also be incorrect. Born David Gruen, he was the first prime minister of Israel and head of the World Zionist Organization. He read Israel’s Declaration of Independence and proclaimed statehood. There was quite a debate in Tel Aviv on what to name the new state: Judea or Zion—even Herzliya—or The Jewish State. The choice was finally Israel, even after the words “Jewish state” were written on the declaration. They were scratched through and State of Israel inserted. They then sang Hatikva (The Hope), the national anthem. Ben-Gurion led the very courageous battle that ultimately brought about the birth of the state.
The esteemed honor of the most important person goes to Menachem Begin. When Jewish people were dying during the Holocaust, Mr. Begin’s Irgun fought the British inPalestineas they attempted to turn back ships fromEuropeladen with survivors. With his rimless glasses, thinning hair, and thin lips, he looked more like a schoolmaster than a defender ofZion. By the Western Wall, he stood up to the British, who had outlawed the blowing of the shofar there on the Day of Atonement since 1929. He ordered that the shofar be blown. Wearing disguises, he fought them all over what would become the State ofIsrael. The British tried many times to kill him, but ultimately he prevailed and the British leftPalestine. This is the reasonIsraelwas reborn prophetically. I know the story well, because I was an adviser to the prime minister on evangelical affairs (unofficially.) It was Menachem Begin who came up with the vision for the present-day Christian Zionist movement. Virtually none of today’s Christian Zionist organizations existed at that time. All came about because of the efforts of Menachem Begin. I had the rare opportunity to be part of that.