Jews and Evangelicals Must Double Down on Their Zionism | Opinion

The best response to the rise in global anti-Semitism is for Jews and Christians to double down on their mutual commitment to Zionism—and today is a good day for that to begin.

On July 3, 1904, Theodore Herzl—the father of modern Zionism—died.

Herzl was only 44 years old. Amazingly, he had only begun his movement with the First Zionist Congress less than a decade before, setting into motion the eventual establishment of the modern Jewish state.

Over 200 delegates—Jewish leaders from throughout Europe and as far away as the Middle East and the United States—attended that first Congress in Switzerland in 1897.

The purpose of the historic meeting was to serve as a symbolic parliament for the nascent Zionist movement. There they organized the movement, set its goals and adopted its anthem ("Hatikvah").

While the legacy of many of the prominent Jewish delegates is celebrated to this very day, too little attention has been paid to the handful of non-Jewish guests personally invited by Herzl. Among them were 10 Christians. These included Lt. Colonel C. Bentick, I. W. Bouthon-Willy of Vienna and Mrs. Maria Kober Gobat, who donated the gavel used to open the Congress. Then there was the German Protestant Dr. Johann Lepsius of Berlin, along with Baron Maxim von Mantueffel from France and the Reverend John Mitchell from Switzerland. There were also professors like Paul Speiser and F. Heman.

Today, we know the most about two of those 10 Christians: William Hechler and Henry Dunant.

Dunant was a Swiss banker who was so traumatized by a bloody battleground he visited in Tunis in the 1850s that he began to advocate passionately for an international body to care for wounded soldiers. Dunant's humanitarian ideas led to the formation of the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the first Nobel Peace Prize, in 1901.

The father of humanitarianism was also passionate Zionist—because, in no small part, of his belief in the Bible. As early as 1866, Dunant had begun advocating for the return of the Jews to the Holy Land. Herzl referred to Dunant as a "Christian Zionist"—the first time the term was used.

Then there was the Reverend William Hechler. He was a minister with the British embassy in Vienna and an early reader of Herzl's influential work: "The Jewish State." Hechler immediately became one of the Zionist leader's chief global advocates, as well as a loyal disciple. Herzl wrote of him, "Hechler declares my movement to be a biblical one, although I proceed rationally in all points." Reverend Hechler would later receive a pension from the World Zionist Organization, up until his death in 1931.

Just over 50 years after the First Zionist Congress, the Jewish state was established as Theodore Herzl had predicted with the accuracy of a biblical prophet.

A picture taken on May 3, 2018
A picture taken on May 3, 2018 in the Israeli mediterranean city of Tel Aviv shows a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the late founder of political Zionism, adorning the building of "The Independence Hall Museum," the house in Tel Aviv where David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, declared the creation of Israel 70 years ago. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

By inviting 10 non-Jews to the First Zionist Congress, Herzl also demonstrated his belief that Christian Zionists could play an important role in the movement. The truth is that there would have been no Jewish state without Bible-believing non-Jews throwing their lives and livelihoods in support of the Zionist cause.

Fittingly, today Zionist Christians—especially, 800 million evangelicals around the world—are staunch supporters of Israel and the Jewish people, rivaled only by Jews themselves. The Torah has many examples of the Gentiles assisting the Jewish people and Jews doing the same, especially during consequential moments.

One of those moments was in the summer of 1981, when the international community viciously and absurdly condemned Israel for its "military aggression" following the Israeli Air Force's precision strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

A young pastor from San Antonio decided to do something about it. He was outraged at the open hostility expressed toward Prime Minister Menachem Begin's government and felt that, if anything, the world should be thanking Israel for making it a safer place.

Today, that pastor—John Hagee—is 87 years old, and the movement he has built boasts over 10 million Christians united in support of Israel. Just two weeks ago, Pastor Hagee traveled to Israel with former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to congratulate Israel's new government and offer the prayers and support of Christians.

Now, a new generation of Zionist Christians and Jews must rise to carry on this mission. It's already beginning.

Unlike 40 years ago, in the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Hamas terror group, hundreds of pro-Palestinian rallies erupted across America, leading to a frightening wave of violence against Jews. At the same time, a digital intifada exploded on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Hateful, anti-Semitic propaganda spread virally, influencing the hearts and minds of the younger generation on social media.

Pushing back on anti-Semitism and the grotesque actions of Hamas terrorists and their Holocaust-denying, genocidal financiers in Tehran was an army of young, social media-savvy evangelical Christians and Jews who weren't allowing the terrorist propagandists to go unchallenged.

Just as purely political and secular Zionism alone wasn't enough to establish the Jewish state—it also took the support of devout Jews and Christians who embraced the Bible—it's time for a new, global Zionist movement to bring together a diverse group of Jews and Christians, whose reasons for supporting Israel and the Jewish people may be varied, but whose commitment is just as ironclad.

A new generation must proudly embrace Zionism—not biblical Zionism or secular Zionism, not a Christian Zionism or a Jewish Zionism, but a Big-Tent Zionism that begins unashamedly with our pastors and rabbis whose belief in the Bible animates their support for Israel and the Jewish people.

Then, every church and every synagogue will become a mini-embassy for the Zionist cause.

Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the director of and the editor of "The Israel Bible," the best-selling Tanakh highlighting the relationship between the Land and People of Israel. Reverend Johnnie Moore is the president of The Congress of Christian Leaders and the founder of The KAIROS Company.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.