Writes Ian G:
First steps in Zionism – a personal journey.
This is the first post in a series that will examine how and why I became a committed Christian Zionist. It is my journey and my understanding.
Like many other brought up in the 50s and 60s, I went to Sunday School. This is different in the UK to what is found in the USA.
At my home church we had a Lay Reader (non-ordained minister licensed to preach in the Anglican Church). He had the enormous privilege of going to Israel for a holiday. Back then foreign holidays were for the rich alone. We were just beginning to get used to the idea that working people might holiday abroad.
He came back with a slide show of places in Israel. He told us that here was where Jesus did this, or there was where David did that etc. etc. Thus was born a desire, still unfulfilled, to go to Israel and see for myself. I was about eight years old. Many others were taught what I was taught, but they are neither Christian or Zionist.
Back then, I hadn't encountered the idea that scripture was unreliable. I never swallowed that lie.
In course of time (1966), I was confirmed into the CofE and stayed with the Church. It was through the writings of C.S. Lewis that I was shown the work of Satan and the saving power of Jesus the Christ. About this time, God was working in the lives of millions of young people (1967/8). This Revival was sometimes called the Jesus Movement, but I knew none of that. All I knew was the God that I had personally encountered was the Jesus I read about in the Scriptures.
I soon came to realise that if I believed the Gospels, I had to believe the Old Testament/Tenach. I didn't know it at the time, but I was now an 'evangelical' Christian.
For me, Jesus and Israel were inseparably intertwined – and I wanted to go to Israel all the more.
First Steps in Zionism Part 2 – some reflections.
In the UK, I could just remember the orange juice ration for babies and my sister being weighed in at the 'clinic', which actually was the Methodist Church Hall. It would feature again in my early life.
Being a voracious reader, and my parents having subscribed for me to a part-work encyclopedia called 'Knowledge', I had some idea of the possible consequences if the USA/USSR confrontation had gone wrong in '62. I can still recall the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. I was aware of the Suez crisis but I couldn't have told you much about it.
Growing up in an English Market Town in the Durham Dales had a great many blessings and privileges; not least our very own Museum/French Chateau and a Public School, Grammar School and Secondary School.
It wasn't idyllic, by any means, but it was a much better life than many, even in the UK, enjoyed.
We didn't hear much about Israel. As far as my generation was concerned, it was where it was supposed to be, where the Bible said it was, more or less. We knew nothing of the Balfour Declaration or the machinations of T.E. Lawrence and the Foreign Office. My father's generation, having done National Service, couldn't comprehend why Irgun and other groups attacked the King David Hotel and hanged National Servicemen, just young men trying to serve King and Country.
Now, at a distance, I can only wish that we had kept our word. I think that there are apologies due on both sides.
I don't know that I really 'became' a Zionist. I think it is the word that best describes what I believe and how those beliefs developed. For me, and for many, Israel had every right to exist in its homeland. After all, a war had just been fought for the right of all of us to live freely and in our own countries. At least, that's what the people fought for.
These are my memories of what it was like to be 14, at school, discovering a personal faith, discovering the Bible and being confronted with the amazing feat of arms that was the Six-Day War. It's my history as I remember it. I will try to be accurate but it's not journalism or general historical analysis. It's about how I became/discovered I was a Christian Zionist.
It's worth remembering that in 1967 many people still had personal memories of WW2. Grandparents and some parents had served in the Forces. Most had done National Service and nearly all had lived through the War. We knew what the Germans had done. Back then we were less fussy about German /Nazi distinctions. We knew that the Jews deserved a homeland and we knew, to some extent, the Bible.
The Four 'Rs were reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic', and religious instruction. This latter meant Christianity and, because Christians revere the Old Testament/Tenach, there was some familiarity with Judaism and with the Geography etc. of the Holy Land. We knew things that these days some people actually question, such as the reality of the Temple in Jerusalem until AD 70. I'll post later on the change in terminology and the undermining of Christian Education in the latter half of the 20century. (Not a thesis, just a blog-post!)
For those who want a timeline and a history of the build-up to the war, I suggest that you go here . It's quite amazing how different political attitudes were then.
I vaguely remember Nasser taking the straits of Tiran (Gulf of Aqaba). Everyone knew that a regional war was was imminent. What no-one expected was a different kind of Jew.
The school I attended had a Combined Cadet Force. The best in the North-East, then and now. US reader, please do not make the mistake of interpreting this as being the same as your ROTC. It's very part-time, more fun, more relaxed, less intense, in short, more British. It's not full-volume, buzz cuts, calling sergeants 'sir' (good grief!!!) etc. Voice of command, yes on parade, hair - just above the collar, and our lot were so arrogant ( I'm sorry to say) that we never saluted anyone under the rank of Major. I'm not sure how we got away with it. The point being we appreciated the feat of arms that was the Six-Day War.
Instead of Saul cowering in his tent, or the dreadful images of the Holocaust, we had an army of Davids, young, fit and victorious.
Some of us thrilled to see this, and when we saw those same soldiers reunite Jerusalem and praying at the Western Wall, it felt like we were watching the Bible come to life.
And then, as part of my growth as a Christian, I discovered Obadiah. to be precise 1:20 . Zarephath, half-way between Tyre and Sidon. I wondered if we might see conflict in the Lebanon in that area? Obadiah got that one right, but possession is yet to come. Given the persecution of non-muslim Arabs, I still expect to see them look to Israel for protection.
To summarise, at this point I believed that:
The Jews had a right to live in their historic homeland;
They had a right to self-determination – rule themselves;
And they had a right to self-defence.
This made me a Zionist, if I but knew it.
It also made me a patriot as every nation has these rights.
I also believed that I was seeing the fulfillment of prophecy .
This made me a religious Zionist.
Finally, it seemed to me that this heralded the return of the Messiah.
And this made me a Christian Zionist.
Nothing, that I have learned since, has changed these basic convictions.
There is much more to come, but these are still my first steps in Zionism.