Assistant Pro­fessor of Religion Don West­blade gave a pre­sen­tation on Zionism and the modern state of Israel. Wiki­media Commons

Zionism is a mis­un­der­stood term, Assistant Pro­fessor of Religion Don West­blade told an audience in the Mossey Library Her­itage Room on Tuesday.

Speaking on the nation of Israel as the 12th lecture of Mossey Library’s “Our Faculty’s Ongoing Research” lec­tures series, West­blade high­lighted Israel’s his­torical and the­o­logical rel­e­vance to modern Chris­tianity, and later related his lecture to the Pas­sages Israel trip that many Hillsdale College stu­dents par­tic­ipate in during winter break.

West­blade explained that 2017 was the cen­tennial anniversary of the sending of Sir Arthur Balfour’s letter to Zionist com­mu­nities, expressing support for the cre­ation of a “nation in the ter­ritory known as Israel.” The anniversary was “unno­ticed and over­shadowed,” West­blade said, because 2017 was also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Ref­or­mation started by Martin Luther.

West­blade focused on the Balfour doc­ument and its con­se­quences. For the Israelites, the Balfour letter is the “greatest gov­ernment doc­ument in human history,” he said. West­blade explained to his audience just how prevalent the Balfour letter was in influ­encing the cre­ation of the nation of Israel by encour­aging other coun­tries to pledge support to the Zionists.

West­blade said in his lecture that Zionism is not a “wrong-headed, heavy-handed belief in the apoc­a­lypse” but rather “a national movement of Jewish people to establish a homeland in the ter­ritory defined as the land of Israel.” This is the def­i­n­ition of Zionism he used in his research.

He said his research is a defense relating to the impor­tance of a nation which “pro­vides pro­tection to people suf­fering dis­pro­por­tionate pun­ishment and dis­crim­i­nation for the past cen­turies.” The other part of his cre­dential and political research into the “renais­sance and return of Israel to its ancestral homeland” he sim­plified in lecture to the Bib­lical passage of Israel being “a light to all nations.” Further explaining that “Israel is the picture, so that [Chris­tians] are pre­pared for reality [of the coming of New Jerusalem].”

“Israel is still rel­evant and will con­tinue to be for the church,” West­blade said, speaking of the con­ver­gence of the modern state of Israel and the­ology.

West­blade related his argu­ments to the Hillsdale Pas­sages Israel trip.

“[It is] vivid to see and learn from where the chosen people gathered and focused in the land of Israel,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to see Israel than it has been for a long time.”

Lucas Miller ’01, pastor of Som­erset Con­gre­ga­tional Church, enjoyed the lecture.

“It’s a reminder of how important all scripture is, including the [Old Tes­tament] prophets,” Miller said.

Sophomore David Forman said he attended partly because he wanted to hear what West­blade had to say.

“I don’t yet under­stand, but I knew I would learn some­thing I did not know; and the Zionist Balfour topic was some­thing I did not know much about,” he said.

Though Miller mostly went to the lecture because of his friendship with West­blade, he also appre­ciates that the library holds these lec­tures.

“[West­blade] does all this work, and its great he has a way to show it,” Miller said.