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Yeshua Explored


todayDecember 4, 2014 7

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(EXCITING NEWS: Have you heard our own programme on PREMIER RADIO yet? The programme is on Saturdays at 12:30pm GMT and will run for another 4 weeks. You can hear past episodes here. The 3rd programme is Saturday 6th December at 12:30pm)

A distinguished gallery of writers, clerics, journalists, artists, and statesmen accompanied the awakening of the idea of Jewish restoration in Palestine. Lord Lindsay, Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Palmerston, Disraeli, Lord Manchester, George Eliot, Holman Hunt, Sir Charles Warren, Hall Caine, Robert Murray McCheyne – all appear among the many who spoke, wrote, organised support, or put forward practical projects by which Britain might help the return of the Jewish people to Palestine. There were some who even urged the British government to buy Palestine from the Turks to give it to the Jews to rebuild.

In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt and Palestine and the British were concerned, both politically and spiritually. Politically, because they feared that trade routes to India would be blocked and spiritually, because evangelical Christians were starting to ponder the subject of the restoration of Israel.

At that time a German Jew, Joseph Frey, became a believer in Jesus the Messiah. He trained as a missionary, intending to work in Africa, until he visited Whitechapel, London and saw the state of the poor Jews who lived there. He there and then decided to work there with Jewish people, beginning at a small Methodist chapel in Aldgate.

But soon he realised he needed more resources, human and financial, to do the job properly and managed to find like-minded people. In May 1809 they formed the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Amongst the Jews, which was a bit of a mouthful and so was also known as the London Jews Society. It was soon endorsed by the great and the good of the land. Supporters included William Wilberforce and Charles Simeon and the Duke of Kent was to become Patron.

Other missionary organisations directed towards the Jews were formed in London at that time, such as the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. At the beginning of each year Hudson Taylor, the legendary missionary to China, sent a cheque to them, inscribed on the back of which were the words of Romans 1:16,  I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, to the Jew first …” John Wilkinson, of the mission organisation, would then write a cheque for the same sum and promptly return it marked “… and also to the Greek.” Another organisation was the Barbican Mission to the Jews, operating as a medical mission, particularly to the poorest Eastern European Jews. In the window of the mission hall would be displayed tracts in Yiddish, which would be dispensed, along with the medicine, as a condition of the free treatment.

In 1868, Benjamin Disraeli was made British Prime Minister. It was a turning point for Jews in England and, curiously, it could never have happened if it wasn’t for a petulant act of his father, Isaac D’Israeli. After a row with his synagogue, Bevis Marks (still functioning now), he never had his son barmitzva-ed. Instead, he had Benjamin baptized. Hence a Jew, now a paid up member of the British establishment and the Church of England, was able to reach the highest office in the land.

About that time George Eliot, the British novelist wrote Daniel Deronda, concerning the struggle of a Jew to retain his identity. The book was concerned with the idea of Israel as an eventual homeland for the Jewish people and was read by a Russian Jew named Yehuda Perlman who agreed with these central ideas. This man was to become Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the person responsible for the rebirth of the ancient Hebrew language in the modern nation of Israel.

In Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, there is an area known as the Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations, a parade of trees planted in honour of those Gentiles who stood by the Jews in their sufferings during the Holocaust. By the end of 2010, 23,788 Gentiles have been so honoured. Here are just two examples:

Francis Foley was the head of the passport division in the British Embassy in Berlin in the 1930s. He helped thousands of Jews to leave Nazi Germany by handing out visas willy-nilly, without the necessary red tape.

The whole Nation of Denmark was also honoured. Virtually alone among the defeated nations, the Danish Government reached an agreement with the Nazis that no Jews would be harmed and none were, all being transferred safely to Sweden and out of harm’s way. For the Israelis, the action of Denmark “stands out in the history of the period as an outstanding act of moral and political responsibility.”

Starting next week is my own ‘Avenue’ of Righteous Gentiles, a list of Gentile Christians who have bucked the trend in Christendom and have displayed a sincere “philo-Semitism“, a genuine love for the Jewish people, a love that showed itself as direct action, sometimes with negative consequences for themselves.

When and where did the great movements of Jewish evangelism in the modern age start?

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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