Like William Henry Hechler
Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, considered William Henry Hechler the first Christian Zionist. Hechler, an Anglican clergyman, missionary, and chaplain, met Herzl in the spring of 1896 after reading Herzl’s book The Jewish State.
Herzl believed the Jewish people’s fate could no longer rest in the hands of nations that accepted them one minute and screamed “Death to the Jews” the next minute. The Jewish people, he believed, needed a homeland of their own.
Hechler was as passionate as Herzl but for an entirely different reason. As a Christian, his hope was for Israel’s restoration, which he saw as rooted in Scripture. God promised to return the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, and Hechler believed Him.
Herzl wrote, “Hechler declares my movement to be a ‘Biblical’ one, even though I proceed rationally in all points.” We believe it is a biblical one as well.
Evangelical Christians have a long history of supporting Israel because, like Hechler, we see that God has a plan for the Jewish people: “I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever” (Ezek. 37:21, 25).
With a new prime minister in office, many evangelicals are curious about what they can expect from a new Israeli government, especially after 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership coalition. A former Israeli news anchor, Eylon Levy, put it this way: “An Islamist leader just signed a deal with the liberal secular son of a Holocaust survivor to establish a government headed by a religious-nationalist and former settler leader (in a hotel named after the Maccabees). That’s where we’re at.”
We must remember, not all prime ministers were like Netanyahu. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was a secular man who believed Zionism and socialism were two sides of the same coin. Golda Meir was a socialist. Each prime minister brings his or her own views on how to establish peace, prosperity, and protection for the Jewish state. Yet evangelical support has remained consistent for nearly 75 years.
Former Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer was quoted as saying, “People have to understand that the backbone of Israel’s support in the United States is the evangelical Christians. It’s true because of numbers and also because of their passionate and unequivocal support for Israel.”
Today, Naftali Bennett is prime minister. Because Bennett’s Yamina party did not win 61 out of 120 Knesset seats necessary for a majority (it won seven seats), Bennett partnered with moderate and liberal parties and even the Islamist party to assemble a governing coalition of 61 seats and oust Netanyahu.
In response to this unlikely coalition government, a well-known American Christian leader wrote a nasty letter to Bennett, promising to deny him the evangelical support that was given to Netanyahu. But The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s support for Israel will not falter because Israelis voted Netanyahu out of office. Our support will not disappear because we disagree with the people in power. Our support does not stem from the halls of Israel’s Knesset or find purpose in a particular Israeli political party or individual.
Like William Henry Hechler, we stand with Israel because God loves Israel and has promised, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
We stand with Israel because we love Israel. We believe Zionism is biblical, God’s Word is true, and the Jewish people have a right to live and thrive in their ancient homeland.
And there is one more thing we believe. We believe that electing the government of Israel is a job for the Israelis. It’s not a job for anyone else.