Jean Henri Dunant- A Christian Zionist

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Statue of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the Jewish state, placed the President’s Residence, the State of Israel Deutsch: Statue von Theodor Herzl, dem Visionär des jüdischen Staates, stellte der Präsident der Residenz, dem Staat Israel Français : Statue de Theodor Herzl, le visionnaire de l’Etat juif, placé la résidence du président, l’Etat d’Israël (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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English: Theodor Herzl\’s childhood with his family at home in Budapest. עברית: ילדותו של תיאודור הרצל בחיק המשפחה בביתם בבודפשט., Original Image Name:משפחת הרצל, Location:בודפשט, הונגריה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism, in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothshild St. The exhibit hall and the scroll, which was not yet finished, were prepared by Otte Wallish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theodor Herzl: Der Judenstaat Deutsch: Theodor...

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n a new book, Emory professor Shalom Goldman explores American Christians and their ‘Zeal for Zion’.

Prof. Shalom Goldman (Ariel Jerozolimski)

Prof. Shalom Goldman (Ariel Jerozolimski) Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

For those who think Christians are either far right, pro-Israel/anti-Arab Evangelicals or far left, pro-Arab/anti-Israel “mainline” Protestants and Catholics, Shalom Goldman’s Zeal for Zion – Christians, Jews and the Idea of the Promised Landshould come as good news. The radical Right is a small minority among American Evangelicals, he writes, and the Christian world at large, for all the streams of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism it’s produced, has also nurtured broad, deep strains of Zionism that predate Theodor Herzl’s ideological epiphany in the mid-1890s. Since then, the term Christian Zionist “has been used to describe Catholics and Protestants, liberals and conservatives, reformers and traditionalists,” writes Goldman, a New York-born professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern studies at Atlanta’s Emory University.

The history of Christianity’s encounter with Zionism is older and far more nuanced and pluralistic than commonly understood, and this encounter has, by and large, been a sympathetic one, Goldman says during an interview in Jerusalem. Today, despite the political convictions and associations that often turn Christians vehemently pro or con on Israel’s relations with Arabs, there is basic support on the part of most Christians, especially Americans, for the Zionist enterprise, he says.

“America’s engagement with Israel is undergirded by its biblical understanding, and the Book of Genesis is more important to American Christians than the Book of Revelation [in which the Jews’ return to the Promised Land precedes the apocalypse and final redemption through Christ],” he says. “For Christians in America, Israel is proof that God works in history. Even among American Evangelicals, support for Israel is not primarily about Armageddon and ‘end times.’ It’s about making sense of a world that seems out of control. With the earthquakes, starvation, catastrophes, [Christians ask] where is God? Well, they see that God has taken His people and brought them back to the land He promised them. That means that God is still here.”

Covering the 1880s to the present, Zeal for Zion personalizes this Christian-Jewish encounter over Zion by telling of the deep heart-felt and ideological connection between, for instance, “Hatikva” composer Naphtali Herz Imber and the British diplomat/adventurer Laurence Oliphant, and between Herzl and Anglican cleric Rev. William Hechler. The book also tells of the tortured duality of early 20th-century Catholicism’s attitude toward Jews and Zionism, and how the Holocaust changed it.

Goldman also recounts the attachment to Israel felt by the great modern authors Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Graves and Vladimir Nabokov, reminding readers that there was a time when gentile intellectuals and cultural heroes saw this country as a symbol of justice.

There are all sorts of fascinating historical details here. Christian Zionist Lord Arthur Balfour, whose 1917 declaration is considered by Israel as the world’s first official recognition of the Jews’ right to a state, “was not an admirer of Jews in general or of the British Jewish community in particular. As one of his biographers noted, ‘In common with many Zionists of his time, both Jew and gentile, he accepted many of the allegations made against Jews by anti-Semites.’”

The book also notes that among Herzl’s Christian guests at the First Zionist Congress in Basel was Jean Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross, whose long-time refusal on technical grounds to recognize Israel’s Magen David Adom was seen here as a sign of anti-Semitism. And Goldman notes that one of the most influential Christian Zionists of the mid-19th century, whose book Mohammed the Imposter was the first important American work on Islam, was a New York University professor named George Bush.

BUT IT is the book’s concluding chapter, “Jewish Settlers and Christian Zionists (1967-2007),” that is, of course, most relevant today. Goldman traces the alliance between American Evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell and John Hagee with the settler movement and the Likud leadership. “Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Likud politicians continued to cultivate the support of the American Christian Right. The most effective and forceful of these political figures is Binyamin Netanyahu.”

As if to illustrate the chapter, on the eve of Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel, Hagee’s Christians United for Israel organization held a giant “Night to Honor Israel” in Jerusalem. Among those present were veteran settler leaders Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, and Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. The guest of honor was Netanyahu.

“Christian Zionism preceded modern Jewish Zionism, and I think enabled it,” the prime minister told the crowd. “But [Jewish Zionism] received a tremendous impetus several decades ago when leading American clergymen, among them, most notedly, Pastor John Hagee… began to say to their congregations and to anyone who would listen, ‘It’s time to take a stand with Israel!’ Today, Christians by the… tens of millions have heard the call and they stand with Israel.”

According to the stereotype, all American Evangelical Christians think like Hagee’s followers: that the Jews must return to Israel and that Israel must hold onto all of the Promised Land because this is God’s plan for Jesus’s return, a return that will occur, as Revelation says, with apocalyptic death and destruction. This stereotype leads many liberal Jews to conclude that the Evangelicals’ embrace of Israel is cynical in the extreme, because ultimately the Jews they claim to love have to either accept Jesus or die horribly.

Followers of this strain of Christianity, writes Goldman, are called “dispensationalists.” “[T]hese biblical literalists asserted that history was divided into eras or ‘dispensations,’ the last of which would soon begin. ‘Israel’ of the Bible was understood by dispensationalists as the actual Jewish people of present times, and the return of ‘Israel’ to their land was a prerequisite of Redemption.”

But he stresses that of the estimated 80 million American Evangelical Christians, only nine million to 10 million carry this belief that Jesus’s return depends on Israel retaining all of its biblical land.

“This is the kind of thing you hear from Hagee, who comes from a classical Pentecostal background and is very heavily influenced by dispensationalism,” Goldman said in the interview. “When he told the [2007] AIPAC convention that ‘50 million Christians are marching behind you,’ that really was not accurate. He actually represents a small sector of Christian fundamentalists. My claim is that for the great majority of American Christians who support Israel, it’s more about the idea of God acting in history, of God fulfilling His promise, than about what’s supposed to happen in end times.”

I asked him what he thought it would do to American Evangelicals such as those at a “Night to Honor Israel” if Israel traded Judea and Samaria for peace. “If there was a deal,” he replied, “my reading of right-wing Christian engagement with Israel is that they would make their peace with it. Some of them are so strident as to think of peace as the enemy, but I think that if Israel were to make such a deal, they would see it as part of God’s plan.”

Goldman, 62, came to Israel in 1968 and stayed for five years, spending much of his time on kibbutzim. “I was one of the post-Six Day War generation of Jews who came to Israel, but I never really intended to stay. It was more like my great adventure.”

With the publication of Zeal for Zion,  he has been speaking to American Jewish groups about Christian attitudes toward Israel, especially among the high-profile dispensationalist types.

“A lot of the questions I get asked come down to: ‘Is this good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?’ I say I’m not going to answer that question for you. I’m a professor, I’m trying to look at the situation in all its complexity. As Jews, this is our responsibility, to try to figure out the people and events going on around us, not to rush to judgment about them.”

The Nobel Peace Prize 1901
Henry Dunant, Frédéric Passy

Henry Dunant – Biographical

Jean Henry Dunant‘s life (May 8, 1828-October 30, 1910) is a study in contrasts. He was born into a wealthy home but died in a hospice; in middle age he juxtaposed great fame with total obscurity, and success in business with bankruptcy; in old age he was virtually exiled from the Genevan society of which he had once been an ornament and died in a lonely room, leaving a bitter testament. His passionate humanitarianism was the one constant in his life, and the Red Cross his living monument.

The Geneva household into which Henry Dunant was born was religious, humanitarian, and civic-minded. In the first part of his life Dunant engaged quite seriously in religious activities and for a while in full-time work as a representative of the Young Men’s Christian Association, traveling in France, Belgium, and Holland.

When he was twenty-six, Dunant entered the business world as a representative of the Compagnie genevoise des Colonies de Sétif in North Africa and Sicily. In 1858 he published his first book, Notice sur la Régence de Tunis [An Account of the Regency in Tunis], made up for the most part of travel observations but containing a remarkable chapter, a long one, which he published separately in 1863, entitled L’Esclavage chez les musulmans et aux États-Unis d’Amérique [Slavery among the Mohammedans and in the United States of America].

Having served his commercial apprenticeship, Dunant devised a daring financial scheme, making himself president of the Financial and Industrial Company of Mons-Gémila Mills in Algeria (eventually capitalized at 100,000,000 francs) to exploit a large tract of land. Needing water rights, he resolved to take his plea directly to Emperor Napoleon III. Undeterred by the fact that Napoleon was in the field directing the French armies who, with the Italians, were striving to drive the Austrians out of Italy, Dunant made his way to Napoleon’s headquarters near the northern Italian town of Solferino. He arrived there in time to witness, and to participate in the aftermath of, one of the bloodiest battles of the nineteenth century. His awareness and conscience honed, he published in 1862 a small book Un Souvenir de Solférino [A Memory of Solferino], destined to make him famous.

A Memory has three themes. The first is that of the battle itself. The second depicts the battlefield after the fighting – its «chaotic disorder, despair unspeakable, and misery of every kind» – and tells the main story of the effort to care for the wounded in the small town of Castiglione. The third theme is a plan. The nations of the world should form relief societies to provide care for the wartime wounded; each society should be sponsored by a governing board composed of the nation’s leading figures, should appeal to everyone to volunteer, should train these volunteers to aid the wounded on the battlefield and to care for them later until they recovered. On February 7, 1863, the Société genevoise d’utilité publique [Geneva Society for Public Welfare] appointed a committee of five, including Dunant, to examine the possibility of putting this plan into action. With its call for an international conference, this committee, in effect, founded the Red Cross. Dunant, pouring his money and time into the cause, traveled over most of Europe obtaining promises from governments to send representatives. The conference, held from October 26 to 29, with thirty-nine delegates from sixteen nations attending, approved some sweeping resolutions and laid the groundwork for a gathering of plenipotentiaries. On August 22, 1864, twelve nations signed an international treaty, commonly known as the Geneva Convention, agreeing to guarantee neutrality to sanitary personnel, to expedite supplies for their use, and to adopt a special identifying emblem – in virtually all instances a red cross on a field of white1.

Dunant had transformed a personal idea into an international treaty. But his work was not finished. He approved the efforts to extend the scope of the Red Cross to cover naval personnel in wartime, and in peacetime to alleviate the hardships caused by natural catastrophes. In 1866 he wrote a brochure called the Universal and International Society for the Revival of the Orient, setting forth a plan to create a neutral colony in Palestine. In 1867 he produced a plan for a publishing venture called an «International and Universal Library» to be composed of the great masterpieces of all time. In 1872 he convened a conference to establish the «Alliance universelle de l’ordre et de la civilisation» which was to consider the need for an international convention on the handling of prisoners of war and for the settling of international disputes by courts of arbitration rather than by war.

The eight years from 1867 to 1875 proved to be a sharp contrast to those of 1859-1867. In 1867 Dunant was bankrupt. The water rights had not been granted, the company had been mismanaged in North Africa, and Dunant himself had been concentrating his attention on humanitarian pursuits, not on business ventures. After the disaster, which involved many of his Geneva friends, Dunant was no longer welcome in Genevan society. Within a few years he was literally living at the level of the beggar. There were times, he says2, when he dined on a crust of bread, blackened his coat with ink, whitened his collar with chalk, slept out of doors.

For the next twenty years, from 1875 to 1895, Dunant disappeared into solitude. After brief stays in various places, he settled down in Heiden, a small Swiss village. Here a village teacher named Wilhelm Sonderegger found him in 1890 and informed the world that Dunant was alive, but the world took little note. Because he was ill, Dunant was moved in 1892 to the hospice at Heiden. And here, in Room 12, he spent the remaining eighteen years of his life. Not, however, as an unknown. After 1895 when he was once more rediscovered, the world heaped prizes and awards upon him.

Despite the prizes and the honors, Dunant did not move from Room 12. Upon his death, there was no funeral ceremony, no mourners, no cortege. In accordance with his wishes he was carried to his grave «like a dog»3.

Dunant had not spent any of the prize monies he had received. He bequeathed some legacies to those who had cared for him in the village hospital, endowed a «free bed» that was to be available to the sick among the poorest people in the village, and left the remainder to philanthropic enterprises in Norway and Switzerland.

 

Selected Bibliography
Les Débuts de la Croix-Rouge en France. Paris, Librairie Fischbacher, 1918.
Dunant, J. Henri. His manuscripts are held by the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Genève.
Dunant, J. Henry, A Memory of Solferino. London, Cassell, 1947. A translation from the French of the first edition of Un Souvenir de Solférino, published in 1862. The author published the original as «J. Henry Dunant», although he is usually referred to as «Henri Dunant».
Gagnebin, Bernard, «Le Rôle d’Henry Dunant pendant la guerre de 1870 et le siège de Paris», bound separately but originally published in Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge (avril, 1953).
Gigon, Fernand, The Epic of the Red Cross or the Knight Errant of Charity, translated from the French by Gerald Griffin. London, Jarrolds, 1946.
Gumpert, Martin, Dunant: The Story of the Red Cross. New York, Oxford University Press, 1938.
Hart, Ellen, Man Born to Live: Life and Work of Henry Dunant, Founder of the Red Cross. London, Gollancz, 1953.
Hendtlass, Willy, «Henry Dunant: Leben und Werk», in Solferino, pp. 37-84. Essen Cityban, Schiller, 1959.
Hommage à Henry Dunant. Genève, 1963.
Huber, Max, «Henry Dunant», in Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, 484 (avril, 1959) 167-173. A translation of a brief sketch originally published in German in 1928.

1. The emblem in Muslim countries is the red crescent and in Iran is the red lion and sun. (For a brief history of the Red Cross see history of the Red Cross.)

2. «Extraits des mémoires» in Les Débuts de la Croix-Rouge en France, p. 72.

3. Taken from a letter written by Dunant and published by René Sonderegger; quoted by Gigon in The Epic of the Red Cross, p. 147.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

 

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