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  • Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations by Daniel G. Hummel
  • Samuel Goldman (bio)
Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations, by Daniel G. Hummel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019. 352 pages. $49.95.

Covenant Brothers is an important addition to the growing literature on Christian Zionism. Like scholars including Caitlin Carenen, Joseph Williams, and Melani McAlister, Daniel Hummel helps extricate (mostly) American Protestants' enthusiasm for the State of Israel from the conspiracy theories and eschatological speculations with which it is associated in the public imagination. According to Hummel, "In its most activist circles today, Christian Zionism is less about apocalyptic theology or evangelism than it is about a range of political, historical, and theological arguments … based on mutual and covenantal solidarity" (p. 3). Jews and Christians, in this vision, are not believers of rival faiths but "covenant brothers" who share a lineage that goes back to Abraham.

Hummel supports this claim with three main arguments, each of which addresses a neglected aspect of the topic. Other studies—especially those aimed at nonspecialist audiences—tend to emphasize the theory of Christian Zionism. Usually focused on the religious right of the 1980s, with detours into dispensationalist theologians like John Nelson Darby, the central issue is what prominent Christians said about Israel and Jews in speeches, articles, books, or sermons. [End Page 150]

Hummel shifts focus to the work of organization. Christian Zionism, for Hummel, is about more than vague expressions of "love" for Israel or Jews or disputes about prophecy interpretation. It is a practical agenda that seeks to coordinate religious communities, educational institutions, charitable groups, and governments in Israel, the United States, and around the world.

Hummel acknowledges precedents for these efforts in the 19th and early 20th century. When it comes to conservative Protestants, however, he argues that the infrastructure of Christian Zionism was built only after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948—and haltingly at that. In this respect Hummel challenges the assumption that close relations between conservative Protestants were a "match made in heaven." Instead, they were the result of laborious effort.

The shift from theory to practice requires a change in the dramatis personae. The representative figure in Covenant Brothers is the Canadian-born activist G. Douglas Young. Raised a fundamentalist, Young believed in the inerrancy of scripture and that the establishment of a Jewish state in the promised land was a step toward the fulfilment of God's plan. As a young minister, however, Young became impatient with religious separatism and the passivity he thought these beliefs encouraged. Following a tour of Israel in 1956, he developed a plan for an "inter-denominational, interfaith" graduate school that would bring together Americans and Israelis, Christians and Jews, in Jerusalem. The result was the Israel-American Institute of Biblical Studies (later the Israel-American Institute of Holy Land Studies), which served as a central node in the developing network of Christian Zionism over the next several decades.

No enterprise of this kind could succeed without official participation. Hummel's second main argument is that Christian Zionism was the product of cooperative relations not only between Christians and Jews but also between religious communities and the Israeli state. In Jerusalem, Young's institute facilitated relationships between Israel's foreign ministry and influential visitors like Evangelical Free Church of America president Arnold T. Olson. Across the At lantic, Israel's Ministry of Tourism established an office in Atlanta to promote travel by newly prosperous residents of the Bible Belt. The resulting tours attracted thousands of Americans, especially Southern Baptists, for high-speed tours of Biblical sites that paid little attention to everyday Jewish life and virtually ignored Arab communities.

US-based Jewish organizations also cultivated relationships with Christians. Hummel emphasizes the role of Marc Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, in bridging religious and sociological divides. By the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the result was a triangular relationship between conservative Protestants, the State of Israel, and American Jewish institutions linked to the Reform and Conservative movements. Notably absent was direct connection between American churches and the Orthodox establishment in Israel. At least until the 1980s...


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pp. 150-152
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