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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable historical context, 2 Oct 2009
MideastMC (Aberdeenshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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The previous reviewer provides a very useful breakdown of the text, but I wish to add a more general point.

Merkley provides a rigorous historical excavation of sympathy for the idea of a physical 'Jewish State' among Christian politicians and statesmen from Cromwell onwards. With Merkley, I find it highly unlikely that the seed of Herzl's secular colonialist project would have resulted in anything like the outworkings of recent history had it not been for the fertile soil of what I view as colonial Christendom's civilisationist and explicitly proto-Zionist thinking.

Remarkably, I did not feel that I was being steered towards sharing these Zionist sympathies to any extent, and I only became aware of Merkley's own view after reading the book. In fact, as one who rejects both this theological position and its associated politics, I found the historical narrative as presented as tragic as it was informative.

That the previous reviewer with his sympathies, and I with mine, can both rate this book with the full five stars should be telling to anyone interested in this underestimated political movement within Christendom. What's more, it is encouraging that history relating to Zionism can still be generated that is not easily transcribed onto a banner.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruth replied: No way will I leave you ..., 7 Jan 2008
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
This compelling work provides valuable insight on the history of Zionism, the contribution of American and British Christians to the rebirth of Israel, and American foreign policy. The book consists of 4 parts:

HERE I AM which examines the Herzl/Hechler paradigm. Merkley starts with the historic meeting between Theodor Herzl and William Hechler that took place on 10 March 1896. This marked the beginning of co-operation between Herzlian & Christian Zionism, when Hechler sought out Herzl just a few days after the publication of Der Judenstaat. The British evangelical pamphleteer Hechler enabled Herzl to meet with powerful European leaders. This ultimately led to the Balfour Declaration, The British Mandate and the birth of the Jewish state in 1948.

The book is more than just dry history, as Merkley explores the personalities of the two protagonists and draws parallels with the political situation today as regards support for Israel and relations between Christian Zionists, Israelis and American Jews. For a most humorous take on the current situation, I highly recommend A Match Made in Heaven by Zev Chafets. The sophisticated Viennese journalist Herzl was completely secular whilst his helper was a pious Christian. Although non-religious, Herzl was superstitious and noticed a series of strange coincidences as he pursued his quest. And before his death, he related to Reuben Brainin a wonderful numinous dream that he had about Messiah and Moses when he was a boy of 12 years old.

THE CYRUS CONNECTION encompasses the roots of PhiloSemitism in Britain, its failure in Germany, and its success in the UK and the USA via William Blackstone, Louis Brandeis, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. This part deals extensively with the Puritans and the way Puritanism later gave rise to Dispensationalist theology and Restorationism. In 1891 William Blackstone wrote a petition to President Benjamin Harrison and Secretary of State James Blaine requesting them to call an international conference to consider the claims of the "Israelites" for a national homeland in the Levant. This petition was signed by 413 prominent people including the speaker of the House of Representatives, the chief justice of the Supreme Court plus influential journalists, writers, clergymen and industrialists.

RALLYING THE ZIONISTS deals with the efforts of Christian Zionists to influence public opinion. This work proceeded through the Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations and into that of Roosevelt. The role of people like Emanuel Neuman, Stephen Wise, Charles Edward Russell, A Ben Elias, William Hard and William R Hopkins, and the activities of organizations like the Zionist Association of America, Pro-Palestine Federation of America and America Palestine Committee are examined here. There is also some interesting information on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in chapter 12: the American Zionist Emergency Council and the Christian Zionists.

Part Four: I AM CYRUS chronicles the close relations between Jewish and Christian Zionists that contributed to the creation of the State of Israel by covering the issue of Palestine during the war, the final years of the Roosevelt administration, President Truman and his friendship with Eddie Jacobson who played such a crucial role in Truman's recognition of Israel on 14 May 1948. Merkley points out that this action was well within the tradition of Christian Restorationism. The book concludes with notes, a bibliography and index.

In this informative and highly readable work, Merkley reveals how the Christian Zionism of today goes back more than a hundred years with even older roots in the Puritans in England in the 1600s. The same holds for differences of opinion within the movement as well as its relations with the Jewish community. For example, Hechler did not believe in proselytizing whilst Blackstone did. And just like then, the Jewish response today is mixed, with Abraham Foxman of the ADL as example of those who distrust the motives of Christian Zionists.

More contemporary information on the politics of Christian Zionism is available in Standing with Israel by David Brog and Merkley's Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel whilst In Defense of Israel by John Hagee is a clear manifesto of the movement's support for the Jewish state. Informative books on the theology of Christian Zionism include The Mountains of Israel by Norma Archbold Parrish, Ruth & Esther: Shadows of Our Future by Frank Morgan and Why Care About Israel? by Sandra Teplinsky. Finally, Barry Horner's Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged is a devastating refutation of the resurgent doctrine of replacement theology.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly expensive, worth every penny, 2 April 2010
Charles Soper (London) - See all my reviews
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What a riveting little book this is! Paul Merkley's distinctive blend of rigorous scholarship, ascerbic but persuasive analysis, avuncular tolerance, dry humour, guidance for the unlearned and a narrator's delightful eye for telling detail flowers in this work. He scopes in on landmarks of highly significant interactions between Jewish Zionism and its Protestant advocates. Without exception each one is surprising, many counterintuitive and instructive about the strange ways in which real politics may bypass ordinary influences.

Some are well covered elsewhere, the remarkable relationship between the Anglo-German Anglican chaplain Hechler and Theodor Herzl for example. Starting with Hechler's astonishing and abrupt self introduction, 'Here I am', he charts precisely how the eccentric cleric increasingly won secular Herzl's respect as well as exasperation, and admiration for his usefulness. He describes the paradoxical 'near miss' of official German sponsorship of Zionism, after the meeting between Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm, which Hechler facilitated by an appeal to Biblical promise.

The most electric episode for me in the whole volume are the behind the scenes mechanics of the meeting between Harry Truman and an old Jewish soldier friend Jacobson, and how an appeal to principle, turned Truman against the advice of his military, diplomatic and economic advisers to support recognition of Israel, when Jacobson was able to extract a last minute meeting with Weizmann. It reads like the book of Esther or the narrative of Joseph.

Christian readers with any interest in Israel will be fascinated by Merkley's carefully referenced and indexed account. Jewish readers will gain unique insights into their own great heroes greatest moments, that they will scarcely gain from official memoirs.
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The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948
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