When Israel shall will the planting of the National Ensign-1876

There are layers of Design in the events of nations. One in particular may be of interest to us. Please see Oliphant_ChristadelphiansAmit

There was a curious conjunction of two witnesses, which even to this day puzzles people which crystalised in a popular novel!

Martin Gilbert the respected historian in his history “Israel” at the beginning of his account of the modern nation wrote,

“it was in 1876 that George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) completed her novel Daniel Deronda. It was to make its impact on many Jews, among them Eliezar Ben-Yehuda and I.L.Peretz”

There is no disagreement, if anything, the novel is known to have had a direct impact on many more,

“It has been cited by Henrietta Szold, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and Emma Lazarus as having been highly influential in their decision to become Zionists.”

So how did a mere Gentile woman make such a change? She had a prepared mind by contact with non- conforming Bible students and idealistic Jews and Gentiles. This was the era when Bro. John Thomas might draw a crowd of people interested the ‘Eastern Question’. But is was not her, who made the change but one of her character’s words. She created in her last work a most controversial fictional character called Mordecai Ezra, who sought one to carry on his work, but that character was based on the thoughts of a real person.

In 1856 Montefiore began a plan for a railway in the Holy Land. Laurence Oliphant was one among many who were in a position to support it, which he did for all his life. Oliphant’s family was well known to Queen Victoria. George Eliot knew Laurence Oliphant, and had read his work on his travels in Asia in 1860. It seems though his relative Margaret, her good friend, that she also knew of his activities and ideas relating to Palestine in the 1870’s.

Added to this was Eliot’s friendship that began in 1866 with Emanuel Deutsch, a Jewish scholar employed by the British Museum from Germany. Such was his influence that he began to teach Eliot Hebrew. Eliot encouraged him to write. In 1867 he wrote and essay on ‘the Talmud’, which became incredibly influential in British literary society, and reversed the effect of Isaac D’israeli’s writings. Curiously, its very popularity among Gentiles, revived Jewish interest. His fame was great enough to bring him both worries and opportunity. He was sent to the Holy Land and experience which greatly moved him,

‘The East: all my wild yearnings fulfilled at last!’ He went up to Jerusalem and there among his fellow-Jews at the Western Wall, remnant and reminder of Israel’s sacred Temple, he was so overcome with emotion that afterwards he could seldom bring himself to speak of the experience without tears. Emanuel Deutsch of The Talmud Fame

It seemed he over worked, and became ill. By 1871 he was very ill and evidently dying of cancer. It seems many knew that,

Apart from his physical suffering, he was tortured mentally, for he now knew he could never complete his projected work on the Talmud. and
the end of December 1872 Deutsch left for Palestine, hoping that here he would regain his health. He got as far as Alexandria, but died there on 12 May 1873. ibid

Apart from having a direct influence, he was to have an even greater one in Eliot’s capture of his ideas and thinking in her most influential character Ezra in ‘Daniel Deronda’ of 1876. Whereas there is no counterpart to the main character Gwendolen, whose name means ‘white’ from the white chalk of Wales, there is for Ezra, as contemporaries knew. Gwendolen might be more a symbolic portrayal of Britannia than not. Whereas the insular, confident inward looking character of Gwendolen was easily drawn by observation, Eliot had to have a remarkable Jewish original to create Mordecai/Ezra. She could not have made up his words. There is some evidence she believed his words, but in reality he was created for the sake of art. She showed him as passing on a powerful ideal to her main character, who is raised an Englishman (as D’israeli was). It is not surprising then that Deutsch’s words (in the character), and his seeking of another to carry on his work, is realised in the reality of Jewish converts to Zionism. But she did more than that, she created a greater culture of acceptance of his ideas in non-Jews.

There was a curious circular influence. Eliot’s Deronda says at the end,

“I am going to the East to become better acquainted with the condition of my race in various countries there..The idea that I am possessed with is that of restoring a political existence to my people making them a nation again, giving them a national centre, such as the English have. I am resolved to devote my life to it.. at the least to waken a movement in other minds, such as has been awakened in my own”

Not long after Laurence Oliphant actually went and did this very thing! From Eastern Europe to the Holy Land. He was so welcomed he was offered a leadership of the Jewish Hovevei Zion ‘Lovers of Zion’. He wrote of the settlement of Jews in his book ‘Land of Gilead’, publish 1880 and he settled in Haifa in 1882.

In 1879 Eliot wrote,

“There is a great movement among Jews for colonising Palestine, and bringing out the resources of the soil. Probably Mr Oliphant is interested in the work, and will find his experience in the West not without applicability in the East” The visionary Transmitting Ideals

It is a point to note is that in Oliphant’s 1880 Gilead Plan was backed up by the then PM Benjamin Disraeli and would have been funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund, and it would have been, in effect a British protectorate in the Ottoman Empire for Jews .. East of the Jordan river (see here). This area of ‘Gilead’ is in Modern Jordan. Britain could have given Gilead to Jews after 1918 but they did not. The idea was there.

Such work was astounding evidence for their faith to Christadelphians of that era. It ought to be to us, also, as they saw through the eye of faith what is now an ongoing history.

There is are some lines given to the character Mordecai which might make us ponder, because they show a discernment,

“The sons of Judah have to chose that God may again chose them. The Messianic time is the time when Israel shall will the planting of the national ensign.”

They had to chose to seek to do God’s will. History since then has showed that if they did not willingly choose, as the way opened, then circumstances became such that they sought it. It is a scriptural principle as evidenced by the plea that they “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19), and “chose whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)

Oliphant was inspired to do the work, but the work he did was the result of many choices to carry out acts of faith. Most funding fell through. The work in the land of Gilead did not go ahead for lack of support. In the end the major source of the funding for Oliphant’s work, for what he could do, was apparently from Christadephians. So the work was not only by him, but also by Christadelphians. Not many others contributed to make what he hoped for actually happen.

Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. (Isaiah 43:4)

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