Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews and the Idea of the Promised Land

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Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews and the Idea of the Promised Land, by Shalom Goldman. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 367 pp. $35.00.

Zionism is normally viewed as a Jewish political cause. This is the picture presented by such works as Arthur Hertzberg's 1959 anthology, The Zionist Idea, which makes no mention of Christian precursors of the Zionist idea. Recently, however, a number of works have focused on Christian Zionism, such as Stephen Sizer's Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon. Goldman's informative and lucidly written volume supplements such studies by providing an illuminating account of Christian engagement with Zionism through six narratives set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The first three chapters, dealing with the period before the creation of the Jewish state, relate the stories of three personal and political relationships: the poet Naphtali Herz Imber and the British diplomat and journalist Laurence Oliphant; the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl and the Anglican cleric William Hechler; and the Hebrew University professor Joseph Klausner and the Hebraist Herbert Danby.

The next three chapters, set in the twentieth century, focus on organizational issues. Chapter Four tells the story of the Vatican's engagement with the State of Israel. Chapter Five deals with three modern literary figures: Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Graves, and Vladimir Nabokov and their support for the State of Israel. The final chapter focuses on modern Christian Zionism.

These six chapters are preceded by an extensive discussion of Zionism as a political movement which treats such themes as the notion of the promised land, the Anglican communion, and the Protestant churches' view of the return to Zion, the United States and the restoration of the Jews, early scholarship on Christians and Zionism, Zionism and the Jewish-Christian relationship, and evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Israel. …