"It is very important to Israel and the Jewish people to recognize the incredible efforts and friendships made by our friends and supporters in the Christian world. [We have] very strong links to the Christian community, which we value enormously."
(London, England)—The Jerusalem Post has published an intriguing article on the Rev. William Henry Hechler, who—as a close friend of Archduke Frederick I of Baden and a tutor of his children—helped Theodor Herzl in his dream of seeing Zion become a reality.
Though many may be unfamiliar with Hechler, his role in the formation of Israel was so significant that Christian and Jewish dignitaries, Israeli Embassy officials and international and local Jewish community leaders attended a recent tombstone commemoration in honor of Hechler at his grave in London.
In a nutshell, in 1896, while serving as the chaplain for the British Embassy in Vienna, Hechler became familiar with Herzl's work and subsequently published a pamphlet called "The Restoration of the Jews to Palestine according to the Prophecy." Not long afterwards, "with Hechler's and the Archduke's assistance, Herzl met the sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II, in 1896 and German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898."
The rest, based on their friendship and mutual love of Israel, is history. Ironically, Hechler, who was born in India in 1845, died alone and impoverished in London in 1931 and was buried in an unmarked grave.
As noted in the report, "Last year, Jerry Klinger—president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, an organization that identifies and recognizes sites of American Jewish Historical interest—discovered Hechler's forgotten grave site with the help of Rev. David Pileggi of Christ Church Jerusalem."
"When Herzl was dying, he asked that we not forget Hechler for all that he did for him and for Zionism," said Klinger. "We did...it has long been recognized that without Hechler's intercession and support, Herzl may have simply remained an obscure, eccentric Viennese journalist—the very founding of the modern State of Israel, may not have been successful."
Said Dr. David Breakstone, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, who attended the commemoration. "In honoring [Rev. Hechler] as we did this week, we not only paid him the respect that was long overdue, making good on an historical debt of gratitude, but also publicly recognized the vital role that so many Christians have played—first in the establishment of the Jewish state, and since then, in support of it."