Zionism and 1844


Although the modern Zionists don't dwell heavily on 1844, that year could be rightfully called as the birth year of the Zionist movement. The origin of the term "Zionism" is the biblical word "Zion", often used as a synonym for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in general. Zionism is an ideology which expresses the idea of the restoration of the Jewish state and yearning of Jews the world over for their historical homeland. The core of the Zionist idea is formulated in Israel's Declaration of Independence (14 May 1948). While the motif of returning to their homeland was first held by Jews exiled to Babylon some 2,500 years ago, it is really the year 1844 that signified the event similar to that of the return of the Jewish nation from the Babylonian captivity. Here is a quote from an official website of the Israel Ministry of the Foreign Affairs:

"Over the centuries, Jews were expelled from almost every European country - Germany and France, Portugal and Spain, England and Wales - a cumulative experience which had a profound impact, especially in the 19th century when Jews had abandoned hope of fundamental change in their lives. Out of this milieu came Jewish leaders who turned to Zionism as a result of the virulent antisemitism in the societies surrounding them. Thus Moses Hess, shaken by the blood libel of Damascus (1844), became the father of Zionist socialism."

Wikipedia takes a different approach to the history of the Zionism, yet arrives to the same date of the Zionism's origin. Here is the first paragraph in the section "History" in the article Zionism, Wikipedia:

"A Christian belief in the return of the Jews to the Holy Land has roots in the US, which pre-date both the establishment of the Zionist movement and the establishment of Israel. Lobbying by these groups, to influence the US government in ways similar to Zionist ideology, dates back to at least the 19th century.

In 1844, Christian restorationist George Bush, a professor of Hebrew at New York University and distantly related to the Bush political family, published a book entitled The Valley of Vision; or, The Dry Bones of Israel Revived. In it he denounced “the thralldom and oppression which has so long ground them (the Jews) to the dust,” and called for “elevating” the Jews “to a rank of honorable repute among the nations of the earth” by restoring the Jews to the land of Israel where the bulk would be converted to Christianity. This, according to Bush, would benefit not only the Jews, but all of mankind, forming a “link of communication” between humanity and God. “It will blaze in notoriety...". “It will flash a splendid demonstration upon all kindreds and tongues of the truth.” The book became very popular and about one million copies of it were sold in the antebellum period.

In addition to these, in 1844 Mordecai Noah publishes Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews, and Rev. Samuel Bradshaw, in his Tract for the Times, Being a Plea for the Jews calls for Parliament to allot 4 million pounds for the Restoration of Israel, with another 1 million to be collected by the Church. Same year Pastor T. Tully Crybace convenes a committee in London for the purpose of founding a 'British and Foreign Society for Promoting the Restoration of the Jewish Nation to Palestine.' He urges that England secure from Turkey Palestine 'from the Euphrates to the Nile, and from the Mediterranean to the Desert'.

Never before there was so much agitation around this issue. What fueled this discussion? It is possible that it was the Edict of Toleration allowing Jews to settle in the Holy Land on March 23, 1844. An Irish scholar and author, George Townshend writes, "... the strict exclusion of the Jews from their own land enforced by the Muslims for some twelve centuries was at last relaxed by the Edict of Toleration and the "times of the Gentiles" were fulfilled." (Townshend, George (1951) [1939]. Heart of the Gospel, The. Oxford, UK: George Ronald, p. 92.) Worth Smith also mentions this Edict in his Miracle of the Ages. He points out: "In the year of A.D. 1844 ... the (Muslims) under the leadership of Turkey were compelled by the Western Powers, notably England, to grant religious toleration to all (nations) within their borders." (London and Holyoks, MA: L.N. Fowler and The Elizabeth Towne Co. 1934.)

It is at that time that the Turkish Government agreed to permit religious freedom and signed the document which guaranteed that 'The Sublime Porte (Constantinople) engages to take effectual measures to prevent henceforward' any further religious intolerance. (The original of this Edict can be obtained from the Public Record Office in London. A translation of the edict, an acknowledgment from Stratford Canning to the Sublime Porte, and an accompanying letter from Canning, dated 23 March 1844, is in Foreign Office, Turkey, FO78/555/No.49. The draft of a letter from the Foreign Office, dated 16 January 1844, which made plain the attitude of the British Government and which provided the direct impetus for the negotiations leading eventually to the issue of the edict, is in FO78/552/No.4.)

Zionism's agenda and Adventist mission could be expressed in similar, if not parallel terms, but while Zionism dwells on the literal fulfillment of some of the divine promises, Adventism believes that the higher, typological level of interpretation is needed as we talk about the fulfillment of the eschatological prophecies. We will return to the reflections on Zionism as we consider the eschatological Jubilee times in one of the following chapters.

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