Zion is a synonym for Jerusalem and for Israel. Zionism is the belief that Jews should have their own nation in their ancestral homeland dating back 4,000 years. Zionists don’t limit their aspirations to living only in Jerusalem; they want to live throughout the Land of Israel and aspire to be “a light unto the nations.”
You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist (nor are all Jews Zionists). People of other religions can share the Zionist ideal, especially Christians. Bible-true Christians love the fact that Jews are returning to their homeland because they have been taught to love Jews, from whom their savior sprang, and because it fulfills the prophecies of the New Testament. Not all Jews or Israelis are comfortable with this, but the Christian Zionists that we know are fervent supporters of Israel, through thick and thin. And they are numerous, which counts for a lot at the ballot box.
Michal and I recently ventured to Jerusalem to visit the new Friends of Zion Museum. This is a virtual reality-type museum which features some of the most prominent Christian Zionists, whose efforts were essential to the rebirth of the modern State of Israel. At the museum, “Visitors enter a whole new world, where they meet the biblical figures, academics, businessmen, and military officials who, through their faith, have forged an everlasting bond between the Jewish and Christian peoples.” (http://www.fozmuseum.com) The museum was founded by Dr. Michael Evans, a best-selling author, journalist, Middle East commentator, evangelist and Christian Zionist.
The museum, also known as the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, is located just a short walk from the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, and directly across the street from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and Center for Human Dignity (under construction). It is at the edge of Nahalat Shiva, a picturesque, touristic neighborhood which was one of the first communities built beyond the Old City walls.
The format of the museum is an escorted tour (reservations required: 9722 532 9400) through a number of rooms telling the story of the Jews and Israel. The initial, introductory setting portrays the genesis of the 3000+ year saga of the Israelites in the Land of Israel, via a 36 ft. long topographic map, cast in concrete, which outlines the boundaries of the land settled by the 12 tribes. Then, in a dramatic fashion, appear scenes that take one on a breathtaking tour from south to north, from west to east, while at the same time, an electronic line traces our tour on the topographic floor map – thus connecting what is seen on the screen with the biblical landscape depicted on the map. This is accompanied by a dramatic music score. It’s an awesome spectacle!
We then ascended in an imaginative elevator to the top-floor Founder’s Theater, where we watched on a 24-meter-wide wraparound screen the story of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. The story begins with the dramatic choice by God of Abram as the bearer of the message of the One God in the world and the founder of a great nation, told through imaginative animation, lighting effects and holograms, plus narration and original music presented in surround sound audio. Dramatic, yes!
The purpose of the museum is defined by its subsequent rooms. There were many Jewish dreamers and ideologues, believers, philosophers and activists who, during Israel’s Diaspora, championed the belief in the rebirth, rejuvenation and repopulation of the “Land of Milk and Honey.” These rooms highlight the faith and devotion to the Bible’s promises of redemption of believing Christians, which impelled them to keep alive the dream and the promise that the people of Israel would indeed return and revive what had become a sad and neglected landscape. These visionaries are called Christian Zionists.
In the next gallery, we meet Professor George Bush, John Henry Dunant, William Blackstone, and the ten Boom family. In 1837, the ten Booms owned a clock shop in Haarlem, just outside Amsterdam. In 1844, the ten Booms opened their humble home every week to lead a group of Christians in prayer. Believing the ancient prophecies of the Bible, they prayed for the Holy City of Jerusalem, its inhabitants, and for the Jews scattered around the world. Their children and grandchildren carried on the tradition.
During World War II, the ten Booms lived out their Christian faith by hiding Jews and members of the Dutch underground in their home. Through this, the ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and protected many Dutch underground workers.
The next gallery contains a giant, colorful mural, which has been transferred to 36 LCD screens. Touching any of the eleven figures triggers an animated portrayal of the personage with a brief description. There are also numerous quotes from classical Biblical sources on the return of the Jews to their homeland. The featured visionaries are: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria of Britain, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, US President Woodrow Wilson, and several lesser-known historical figures.
The following room portrays people whose Christian mores would not allow them to just “stand by” and see the wholesale murder of Jews during WWII: the Righteous Among the Nations. The presentation ends with a unique demonstration in which viewers experience “first hand” the responsibility each person holds for the fate of his fellow man.
Then, we enter a gallery where animated, life-size historical figures tell of their involvement with the people of Israel. The simulation blends live actors re-enacting four heroes’ personal storytelling with genuine archive footage. Included are Col. John Patterson of the British Army, commander of the Zion Mule Corps in WWI; Gen. Marie- Pierre Koenig of the French Army, a proud commander of French free forces in North Africa; President Harry Truman, who immediately recognized the State of Israel when it declared independence; and Maj. Orde Wingate of the British Army, who trained Jewish guerrilla fighters in pre-state Israel. This exhibit was particularly effective.
Included in this section is a recreation of the 1947 Partition Vote in the United Nations and testimonials to brave Christian rescuers from Israelis who owe them their lives.
The climax of the tours comes in the Promise Theater, a panoramic 3-D presentation. In the background we view images of the Land of Israel from west to east, from north to south, from forest to desert. We see once more the personalities encountered in the previous galleries, from Abraham and his biblical heirs up to modern times, telling how each responded to the call to inspire and to take part in the fulfillment of the promise of the prophets of Israel, to restore the Israelites to the Promised Land.
In less than an hour an a half, visitors to the Friends of Zion Museum witness a sweeping, Zionist view of Israel and its history, with an emphasis on Christian enablers of the State of Israel. The narrative illustrates quite well the impact that the Christian Zionists had on supporting the Jewish cause in Palestine. It becomes clear that without the help of influential Christian leaders, especially British ones, a Jewish State in Palestine would not have been possible.
Besides the excellent museum tour, there’s also a cafe and a gift shop to enjoy on the premises. While the Friends of Zion Museum is not a rival to the Israel Museum, it’s a valuable addition to Jerusalem’s culture and history. The museum is in the perfect location to attract many visitors, in groups and on their own. Just remember to reserve your place on an English language tour!