Despite the fact that during the bombing of the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops not only hospitals and mosques, but also Christian churches were destroyed, many people who call themselves Christians and are not ethnic Jews actively support Israel’s actions. Where did this phenomenon come from?

The fact is that Zionism as a Jewish political movement arose at the end of the 19th century, but similar ideas appeared much earlier. And, paradoxically, they were born in a Christian environment.

The Birth of Puritan Zionism
Some of the first supporters of the immigration of European Jews to Palestine were the Puritans. This Protestant sect arose at the end of the 16th century and became quite influential in England and then in the American colonies. They showed considerable interest in the role of the Jews in eschatology, or end-time theology.

For example, John Owen, a 17th-century theologian, MP, and administrator of Oxford, taught that the physical return of Jews to Palestine was necessary to fulfill end-time prophecy. And in 1621, Sir Henry Finch wrote a sermon calling for support for the Jewish people and their return to their biblical homeland.

One of the most influential branches of Christian Zionism has been dispensationalism, a system of interpretation that uses information from the Bible to divide history into different periods of administrations or dispensations and views the biblical term “Israel” as designating the ethnic Jewish nation established in Palestine.

Dispensationalism was originally developed by the Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby in the 19th century. Darby believed that the God-ordained destinies of Israel and the Christian church were completely separate, with the latter to be physically “caught up”—raised up to meet Jesus—before the period of upheaval predicted in the Apocalypse called the Great Tribulation.

According to Darby, the Great Tribulation will begin after the construction of the Third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. During the Great Tribulation, according to this teaching, 144 thousand Jews will convert to Christianity, and this will reveal to them the true intentions of the Antichrist. Thus, they will become the epicenter for the conversion of all non-believers who were not raptured.

It is these 144,000 converted Jews who will face the Antichrist in the final battle known as Armageddon and defeat the Antichrist. After this battle, the seven years of tribulation will end and Jesus will return to imprison Satan and establish a thousand-year Messianic kingdom on Earth.

Although absurd and not mentioned in the Bible, the concept of Christians being physically transported to heaven on the eve of Armageddon was enthusiastically accepted by some churches in England and especially in the United States.

Darby’s approach to Christian eschatology coincides with similar developments in Jewish eschatology, namely the ideas of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher and the creation of a new branch of Jewish messianism. Its representatives believed that Jews should actively work to hasten the coming of their messiah by immigrating to Israel and building the Third Temple on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located.

Darby himself traveled throughout North America and a number of other countries to popularize his ideas, meeting with several influential pastors throughout the English-speaking world. Among them was James Brooks, the future mentor of Cyrus Scofield, who later disseminated this concept, and his interpretation was published in large numbers in the United States and is known as the “Scofield Bible.”

Another figure influenced by Darby’s doctrine was American preacher Charles Taze Russell, whose church later gave rise to several different sects, including Jehovah’s Witnesses (an organization banned in the Russian Federation). Decades before the founding of modern political Zionism, Russell began preaching—not only to Christians but also to Jews in the United States and elsewhere—the need for mass Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Russell wrote a letter to Edmond de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family, as well as Maurice von Hirsch, a wealthy German financier of Jewish origin, in 1891 about his plan to settle Palestine. He described his plan as follows: “My proposal is that the rich Jews buy from Turkey at fair value all of its property rights in these lands: that is, all state lands (lands not owned by private owners), provided that Syria and Palestine will be established as free states.”

The book by Theodor Herzl, considered the founder of Zionism, “The Jewish State” was published only in 1896.

American preacher William E. Blackstone, who was greatly influenced by Darby and other dispensationalists of the era, also spent decades promoting Jewish immigration to Palestine as a means of fulfilling biblical prophecy. His efforts culminated in the Blackstone Memorial petition, which called on then-President of the United States Benjamin Harrison and his Secretary of State James Blaine to take action “for the return of Palestine to the Jews.”

Signatories of the petition included bankers J. D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan, future President of the United States William McKinley, Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas Brackett Reed, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, the mayors of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and Chicago, editors of the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, as well as members of Congress, influential businessmen and clergy.

Although some rabbis were included among the signatories, the majority of American Jewish communities opposed the contents of the petition. In other words, the main goal of Zionism, even before it became a movement, was widely supported by the American Christian elite.

Modern takeoff
Yet for the first half of the twentieth century, Christian Zionism was not very widespread or influential in the United States.

But then evangelist Billy Graham, who had close relationships with several presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, enters the picture. Finally, dispensationalism enters the mainstream of American political discourse with evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority in 1979.

Another prominent dispensationalist with great political and literary influence was Hal Lindsey. Ronald Reagan was so moved by his books that he invited Lindsay to speak at a National Security Council meeting on nuclear war plans and made him an influential consultant to several members of Congress and Pentagon officials.

The Republican Party to this day relies heavily on Christian Zionists for both cash and votes. They have a profound influenceon party ideology.

Christian Zionists in the United States now have many names. Somecall them the “Armageddon lobby”, others call them “Christian AIPAC” (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

There are about 20 million Christian Zionists in the United States, and they sponsor the migration of Jews to Israel from Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine and other countries. That is, in fact, there are more of them than there are ethnic Jews around the world, although not all Jews support Zionism.

During the administration of George W. Bush, and especially in the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the administration was also heavily influenced by Christian Zionists in the form of neoconservatives. During a 60 Minutes interview in October 2002, Jerry Falwell even stated, “I think we can now count on President Bush to do the right thing for Israel every time.”

Falwell was referring to President Bush’s actions in April 2002 when he turned a blind eye to Israeli actions in the West Bank during Operation Protective Wall. Falwell met with President Bush several times during his first term specifically to discuss US support for Israel. According to him, the president’s views on Israel coincided with his own.

Christian Zionists also helped unseat Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, who suggested it was being done to benefit Israel by the Jewish lobby. And the Apostolic Congress and the Americans for a Safe Israel group actually thwarted Bush’s plan to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by bombarding the White House with petitions.

In the United States there is also an organization called Christians United for Israel, which was created in 2006 by Pastor John Hagee and has more than seven million members. Its members include former CIA chief and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Vice President Mike Pence and famous hawk John Bolton. They were all quite active during Donald Trump’s presidency.

During a speech in Kansas in 2015, Pompeo openly stated that he believed in the “Christian Rapture,” and in an interview said that as a Christian he believed that “God chose Trump to help save Jews from the threat of Iran.”

It was the Christian Zionists who lobbied for Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor and Trump supporter Robert Jeffress led a prayer for peace in Jerusalem during the relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv on May 14, 2018. Hecalled it “a significant event in the life of your people and in the history of our world.”

Another structure from the United States called “Proclaiming Justice for the Nations” also lobbies for the interests of Israel. At the end of October 2023, they began to call for the resignation of the UN Secretary-General for his criticism of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians.

As we can see, the issue of supporting Israel has a longer and more complex history than even its creation in 1948.

While many Jews deny even the very statehood of Israel, calling it a violation of the Talmudic commandments (for example, the Hasidic movement “Naturei Karta”), among the followers of Christian denominations there are ardent supporters of Israel, including the rationale for any actions of its government, including repression of the Palestinians.

And, of course, American Protestants play a huge role in this, linking the fate of Israel with their eschatological worldview. And among them are influential political figures who make decisions on US foreign policy.

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