It was June, 1492. All non-Christians were being expelled from Spain, including up to 800,000 Jews. That same month the navigator and explorer Christopher Columbus was commissioned to find “new lands”. Columbus was brought up in a Jewish family living in Spain that had converted to Catholic Christianity to avoid persecution. While they were outwardly Catholic, they maintained in secret their Jewish beliefs and practices. These Jews were called by the derogatory name “Marrano”, a Spanish word that means “pig”. In view of the expulsion of the Jews, Columbus determined to find a safe haven for what he called “his people”. In his diary Columbus writes, “in the same month (June 1492) in which their Majesties (Ferdinand and Isabella) issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, they gave me an order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies”. He continues to write that his real motivation was to find a secure home for the Jewish people. Simon Wiesenthal in his book Sails of Hope confirmed this when he wrote, “the motive behind Columbus’ voyage was to find a safe haven for the Jews”.

The intent of Columbus to establish a home for the Jews was commendable but the time to achieve this was not right. Yahweh had His own timetable and it took another 456 years before the Jews had their own homeland.

It was providential that Columbus discovered the Americas as the northern part of this newly-founded part of the world was to become such an influential refuge for many Jews.

Part of this influence stemmed from the creation of the King James Bible, which came into existence to oppose an unauthorised translation sought by the Puritans. This group, in seeking to promote another translation, refused to accept that the King had a right to claim he was “head of the Church”. They also opposed some of the teachings and operations of the Church and ultimately, because of persecution, left England and fled to America. While the Puritans may not have had the truth of the scriptures, they had a love for the Jewish people and tried to establish their teachings on the basis of the Jewish hope of the scriptures. Early religion in America was largely based on Puritan teaching rather than Anglican, Catholic or even many of the Protestant teachings. They laid a basis for a nation that continues to this day to be supportive of the Jews.

Columbus had done his part and the Puritans continued to progress God’s purpose.

A further 170 years in the Divine plan

We move ahead 170 years to the battle of Akko in Palestine. Napoleon was attacking Akko, one of the oldest and most strategically situated cities in Palestine. His intent was to take Palestine from the Ottomans and make it a French enclave. He generally believed they were a special people and attempted to win them to his side. He expressed this on the 20 April 1799, when he declared: “Bonaparte, commander in chief of the armies of the French republic declares to attentive and impartial observers of the destinies of nations, even though I am not endowed with the gifts of seers like Isaiah and Joel, I have long since also felt what these, with beautiful and uplifting faith, have foretold when they saw the approaching destruction of their kingdom and fatherland”. He then quotes Isaiah 35:10—“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”. That it was not just a political statement for support from the Jews is indicated by Napoleon’s later remark: “show me a Jewish person and I will show you why I believe in God”.

The time was not right. Napoleon was in Yahweh’s Divine Providence but it took another 149 years before the Jews had their land.

Mordecai Manuel Noah

Mordecai Manuel Noah was born in 1785. His parents, Manuel and Zipporah Noah were Sephardic Jews born in Portugal and, although “Marrano,” had escaped the inquisition in Portugal to settle in Georgia USA. In 1825, Mordecai purchased 70 square km of land in Grand Island on the Niagara River near New York to establish a city of refuge for the Jews. He called it Ararat and had a plaque placed on the Island inscribed with the following words: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; Ararat, a City of Refuge for the Jews, founded by Mordecai Manuel Noah, in the Month Tishrei, September 1825”.

The idea did not attract many followers and Mordecai started to advocate the creation of a Jewish state in the Land of Palestine.

The Divine Providence of God was working in natural means by His power and the overshadowing work of the angels but it would take a further 123 years before the Divine hand put His stamp upon the map of the world.

It took a man with the Bible in hand to be able to foresee not only the reality of a nation called Israel but to interpret a number of specific details by which it would be accomplished.

That man was Brother Thomas who wrote these famous words in Elpis Israel: “The pre-adventual (before Jesus Christ returns to the earth) colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the messiahship of Jesus. They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders, in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth under the efficient protection of the British power.”

It was in 1876 that Mary Anne Evans, an English novelist known by her pen name George Eliot, wrote the book Deronda. One of her key characters is a Jew and in her book she advocates and anticipates “the restoration of the Jewish state planted in the old ground as a centre of national feeling, a source of dignifying protection, a special channel for special energies. A new Messiah will come”. In her story she describes her character “the Jew” as saying: “I know many Jews are bad! So are many Christians. But I should not think it fair for you to despise me because of that”.

The Jews today refer to this book as “the Bible of Zionism”.

You cannot destroy the Jew

You can curse the Jew, persecute them, expel them from your territory and kill them but you cannot forget them. In 1804, Alexander I of Russia produced an edict which forced Jews to live in the area known as “the Pale of Settlement.” The word “pale” is derived from the word “palus,” which means a stake, an area enclosed by a fence or boundary.

The Jews lived in harsh conditions within this Pale. They lost their jobs, and faced extreme violence from their neighbours, the Russian peasantry. Like other nations before them, the Russians attempted to eliminate the Jew but against tremendous odds the Jew remains.

In Jeremiah 31:35-36 the declaration was made: “Thus saith the Yahweh, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Yahweh of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Yahweh, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.”

Despite millennia of persecution, expulsion and genocide, the continued existence of the Jew indicates that Yahweh is faithful and His purpose will stand.

George Gawler

Having a belief in the words to Jeremiah, George Gawler, a former governor of South Australia, formed the “Palestine Colonisation Fund” in 1852 and, with the assistance of Lieutenant Kitchener, carried out a survey of Palestine that brought to the public the fact that Palestine could be restored by the Jews to its ancient prosperity. He wrote a book in which he suggested that Jews be allowed to establish Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine as compensation for their suffering in Europe and under Turkish rule. Together with another supporter of the Jews, Moses Montefiore, he toured Israel.

Montefiore is commemorated by the restoration of his windmill outside the Old City of Jerusalem in the neighbourhood of “Mishkenot Sha’ananim” — a name that means “dwellings of tranquillity” and is taken from Isaiah 32:18. In 1860 he built apartments to relieve the overcrowded conditions within the Old City and the our mill to provide employment. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1838 and granted a baronetcy eight years later in recognition of his humanitarian services. His coat of arms was truly unique: it includes the word “Jerusalem” — written in Hebrew. Montefiore wanted to carry out the biblical injunction: “Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psa 137:6).

Brother Thomas writes of Montefiore’s valuable work for the Jews in the Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come and asked brothers and sisters to support financially the activities of the Jews. Brother Roberts asked ecclesias to financially assist the Jewish cause promoted by Laurence Oliphant — a South African born British author who hoped to establish a Jewish agricultural settlement.

Montefiore saw these settlements as a means of assisting Jews who were suffering persecution in Europe to come to Palestine, by allowing them to work on these settlements. He visited Constantinople with letters of recommendation from Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury, who approved his plan. His intent was to obtain a lease on the northern half of the Holy Land and settle large numbers of Jews there. He had a secretary, Naphtali Immer, who wrote the words of Hatikvah.

Hertzl and the Jewish State

It was Herzl in his book, The Jewish State that declared: “I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabees will rise again. Let me repeat once more my opening words:

The Jews who wish for a State will have it. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.”

Herzl breathed the feelings of Zionism but he lacked the Divine answers that the Bible alone holds. God’s anticipations for Jewry will bring peace and good will for all mankind, not through Zionism, but through the Divine working of Yahweh through His people. Herzl and Chaim Weizmann had different views for the State. Herzl wanted “A land for the Jews” while Weizmann wanted “THE land for the Jews.

The Ottomans were not favourable to the settlement of Jews in Palestine and in Britain, anti-Semitism broke out in 1901-1903, followed by the “Aliens Act” proclaimed in 1905, designed to curtail Jewish immigration into England. To placate the Jews, Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary of England, proposed that British East Africa (The Uganda Plan) should be allocated to the Jews. The government approved the plan on 29 August 1903 and this was accepted by many prominent Jews, including Herzl, Ben Yehuda and Israel Zangwill; but the majority of the Jews claimed Palestine was their home and no alternative was acceptable. Other suggestions including Canada, Port Davey in south west Tasmania, Libya and Angola were all rejected. At this time, Galveston, Texas in the USA, opened its doors and welcomed the 9,300 Jews that settled there.

In 1906, Lord Balfour, former Prime Minister of England, Lloyd George, a future Prime Minister, Chaim Weizmann, Simon Marks and Israel Sei (both Jews of the Marks and Spencer retail giant), met together to discuss the Jewish problem. Balfour queried Weizmann as to why he would reject the very favourable offer of the British government of the “Uganda Plan”. Weizmann replied: “Would you take Paris over London?”; to which Balfour replied: “But we already have London”! At this point, Weizmann came back with: “Mr Balfour, the Jews had Jerusalem when London was a marsh”. Balfour hesitated and then replied: “Are their many Jews who think like that?” Weizmann to Balfour: “I speak the mind of millions of Jews who you will never see and cannot speak for themselves.” Balfour replied: “If that is so, you will one day be a force!”

The Balfour Declaration

On 2 November 1917, Lord Balfour, Foreign Secretary in the British government, wrote: “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of that object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done, which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish Communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

While the peace conference was convening at Versailles in early 1919, Weizmann was asked of his understanding of the term, “a National Home”, referred to in the Balfour Declaration. He answered: “The country of Palestine should be Jewish in the same way that France is French and Britain is British.” Similarly, Weizmann pronounced the same formula in an address to the English Zionist Federation on 19 September 1919: “By a Jewish National Home I mean the creation of such conditions that as the country is developed we can pour in a considerable number of immigrants, and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English or America American”.

The Balfour Declaration under challenge

By 1921 the Balfour Declaration was under challenge. Those who issued the paper were no longer in power and Britain had reneged on their commitment to give Syria to the Arabs, and following the Sykes-Picot agreement, gave it to the French. The Mandate had created intense resentment and riots had occurred in Palestine in 1920-21. Motions were raised in the British parliament to repeal the Balfour Declaration. Winston Churchill was the prime mover in defeating the motion, although a compromise was necessary.

The Peel Commission

Increasing friction between Britain, the Arabs and the Jews created a demand for another investigation of the Middle East situation. In 1937, The British Commission of Enquiry, headed by Lord Peel was arranged to work out a solution for “two national communities within the narrow boundary of one small country”. Each party put forward their view.

The Arabs wanted to revive the Arab golden age. The Jews wanted to show what they could achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. The solution, Lord Peel determined, was to abolish the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration and partition the land. Jerusalem would be put under international supervision. Amazingly, the Arabs rejected the idea outright, while the Jews were prepared in some form to accept it. The plan was ultimately shelved and then buried during the Second World War.

Commission after commission was being agued while the angels brilliantly and providentially manoeuvred the circumstances, knowing full well that on 29 November 1947, a world assembly would vote on the issue and proclaim and endorse the new state. Although the actual name of the country was yet to be decided, Bible students knew that in the end the name would be Israel.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared on behalf of the members of the people’s council who represented the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement: “We are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British mandate over Eretz-Israel and in virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel”.

Yahweh had spoken 2500 years before: “I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” (Ezek 37:22). At last the time was right to make it happen.