Steven Blowers: Why Do I Call Myself a “Christian Zionist”?
In order for you to understand my answer to this question, I need to share a little background.
I first went to Israel in 1976. The previous year, I had met a young Israeli Jewish girl hitch hiking in Holland. We travelled together for a couple of weeks in Denmark and Holland. I grew rather fond of her. We corresponded by letter for a while and I resolved to visit her in Tel Aviv.
In the months leading up to my trip, I began to read books about Israel, more particularly, about the 1948 War of Independence and the immense difficulties the Jews faced in finding weapons to fight with, the challenges in actually getting to Palestine with all the restrictions placed upon them, and the world looking away from them. I read Leon Uris’ “Exodus,” and James Michener’s, “The Source.” I began to come to an understanding of the immense struggles faced in the previous decades by the Jews in beginning to rebuild the nation of Israel, and the struggles they still faced at that time. I don’t remember ever being taught any aspect of Jewish history at school, except Bible stories, but in later years these became hugely significant in my life.
Anyway, I went to Israel. I stayed at the home of this young woman whose parents graciously accommodated me in the tiny one bed flat for a while. Then we went to Jerusalem. Her parents were German Jews, who had managed to get to Palestine in 1936.
After a few weeks I volunteered to work on Kibbutz Shoval; this was a life changing experience for me. I come from the UK, which in the 1970’s was a strike ridden mess. At Kibbutz Shoval I learned the virtues of hard work and I began to understand the pioneering spirit of the Jews that had recovered their ancestral land from swamp and desert through sheer hard work.
I have since returned to Israel twice: in ’77 and ’78. I worked again on kibbutzim [plural for kibbutz] and travelled the length and breadth of the country.
For the next 30 odd years, however, Israel became just a memory: a wonderful experience, but just a memory. Over all that time, I neither knew, nor conversed with Jews, but I did become a Christian.
Three years ago I became involved with a Facebook site called Christians United For Peace.” Why? Because someone had posted a false map that purported to show “Greater Israel”, and talked of the threat of “Zionist world domination”. I knew instinctively this was wrong and I began to debate with people who were virulently antisemitic, die-hard Israel haters. The knowledge I had picked up thirty years ago started to kick in and I began to read very deeply about the history and experience of the Jews. I was banned and reinstated three times from that site. They are anti anything Zionist, which in reality means they hate Jews.
I began then to try and understand my own heart, asking myself why it was that I felt a deep love for the Jews. Love carries with it a deep yearning, a yearning for the object of one’s love. I already knew Psalm 137 in which the Jews in the Babylonian exile longed for Jerusalem. Then I discovered Yehuda Halevi’s beautiful poem:-
My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west—
How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?
A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain —
Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.
Zion is a physical place, it is a spiritual place. The Jews in the Diaspora carry this place in their hearts, they yearn for it.
Zion is a physical place, it is a spiritual place, the Jews now have the physical but it is still a spiritual place as well, and it is “the World to Come.”
I am not a Jew, but I carry in my heart the yearning for this “World to Come.” John Bunyan, in his great allegory, called it, “The Celestial City”. It is the “New Jerusalem”. It is Zion. Bunyan in his allegory takes his pilgrim through many scenes and events. The Bible is my guide, the great stories of the Tanakh are history and truth to me, leading me to Zion.
Therefore, I am a Zionist, firstly because my heart longs to be home and at rest. I long to be free of the trials and tribulations of this world where I am with God and my heart is at rest. The Jew, above all others, knows this — and God made it that way.
Secondly, I am a Zionist because I support the right of the Jews to self determination. The Jews are at home in their own land, and the movement that brought them there began in the 19th Century and it is called Zionism. Religious and secular Jews, and non Jews, brought this about. Again, I believe God made it that way. I was privileged to work with them in the 1970’s, and in a very, very small way helped them to rebuild their country.
As a Christian, I believe that God has a purpose, the Nation of Israel is central to that purpose. His covenant and promises are everlasting. The Jewish people are chosen, ‘elected’ by God, to reveal this purpose by showing the world the moral, social and spiritual benefits if we follow His word and live as He tells us to. Beyond the collective purpose, Jewish people are inherently no different from any other human being. We are all people, individuals, with our successes, achievements, faults and frailties. What was revealed is for all and Zion is for all.
This post was written by Steve Blowers, in response to a question posed on my Facebook page asking why are Christians Zionists. She wanted a personal response from Christians Zionists, themselves, and Steve picked up the gauntlet and ran with it. He intends to develop the ideas he began sketching out here into a longer piece to be published at a later date. In the meantime, I invite readers to comment below: what associations arise for you as you read Steve’s piece?
Image Credit: By Ephraim Moshe Lilien (Milwaukee Jewish Artist’s Laboratory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons