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Do Not Forget the Father of Christian Zionism

Reverend William Hechler

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3 Feb 2016 (All day)
Do Not Forget the Father of Christian Zionism

As Theodor Herzl’s close partner in the early Zionist movement, his activism helped lay the groundwork for establishing a Jewish state in their historic homeland.

He used his connections with European royalty to help Herzl secure meetings with key world leaders. Few people were as passionate and intense in working for Zionism and the Jewish people. Yet even fewer people know his name.

We are speaking of the Reverend William Hechler, a devout Christian who befriended Herzl and became the “foreign minister” of the Zionist movement.

Eighty-five years after his death - the date of which will be remembered this coming January – Hechler is not commemorated across the country that he helped to found. No street bears his name, no structure, no institution. One of the key leaders of the early Zionist movement, and one of the fathers of Christian Zionism, the man that serves as an inspiration for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, is almost forgotten. Now is the time for the State of Israel to recognize its debt to this man who worked so hard for its establishment.

William Hechler was not the first Christian who recognized the religious importance of the Jewish return to their homeland, but he was the first to work actively alongside the newly-formed Zionist movement. Born in 1845 to a devout Anglican family, Hechler took up the cause of Zionism years before Herzl began his activity. As an Evangelical Christian, Hechler saw the return of Jews to their homeland as a biblical imperative.

Faithful to this commandment, he was looking for Jewish leaders who would get behind the return to Zion. When he read Herzl’s booklet on “The Jewish State,” Hechler went immediately and knocked on his door to meet this visionary and encourage him to pursue his dream.

In those days, Hechler served as chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna, and he used his connections with the German royal family to open doors for Herzl across Europe. It started with a meeting with Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden, to lay out his plan for Jewish resettlement in Eretz Israel. Hechler also accompanied Herzl on a journey to Palestine, and helped him meet the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II. Hechler also served as a special envoy on behalf of the British prime minister in connection with Herzl's efforts.

Hechler took part in the early Zionist Congresses - and even received special words of gratitude from Herzl for his work. Herzl noted that Hechler and his biblical inspiration had a great impact on his efforts, giving him a sense that he was a modern-day Moses leading his people back to the Promised Land.

Hechler remained an ardent Zionist after Herzl's passing, and was in contact with Jewish and Christian leaders until his death. In the years before World War II, he called for Jews to leave Europe and warned of impending catastrophe. Unfortunately, no one heard him. The story of the close partnership between Herzl and Hechler is told in the book "The Prince and the Prophet," by Claude Duvernoy.

The legacy left by Hechler has not disappeared. Zionist Christian organizations, led by the ICEJ as well as millions of Christians around the world, continue to walk in the path of William Hechler, a great friend of the Jewish people. 

 

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