December 13, 2018

On 41, 43 and the Original George Bush

George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, George Bush

Little noted in the remem-brances of former President George H.W.  Bush, including his loving eldest son’s, former President George W. Bush, is their namesake ancestor, professor George Bush (1796-1859), the distinguished 19th-century pioneer of Christian Zionism.

The scholar said of the Jewish people: “The dispersed and downcast remnant shall, one after another, turn their faces to Zion … find their way to the land of their fathers. … This will not only benefit the Jews, but all mankind, forming a link of communication between humanity and God.”

Professor Bush asserted this vision long before the activities of the founder of the modern Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, and before the rise of the Zionist movement among world Jewry.

Bush was an ordained Presbyterian minister who became a professor of Hebrew and Oriental literature at New York University. His biblical scholarship convinced him of the prophecies foretelling the people of Israel’s return to their land.

In 1844, the professor published his studies in a landmark book, “The Valley of Vision: or, The Dry Bones of Israel Revived,” rooted in the prophecies of Ezekiel in the Bible. “The Valley of Vision” sold more than 1 million copies, a publishing rarity before the Civil War. It turned Bush into a national voice calling for the restoration of the Jewish people to their historic homeland.

His writings had a deep impact in shaping the public’s views about the Jews and their ancestral homeland, including informing author Mark Twain and Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Bush and other courageous voices of Christian Zionism set the stage for America, a century later, to be the first country to recognize the reborn State of Israel and to remain its steadfast ally in the decades since.

Although President George H.W. Bush (41) and his advisers James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, particularly, had some rough moments vis-a-vis Israel, namely confronting the Israeli government and halting funding for refugee resettlement, Bush 41 went out of his way to assist in the liberation and rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. His advisers were deeply troubled by the Jewish left and the ideological partisanship of American Jewry. Though President Ronald Reagan had warm support in the American Jewish community, his successor did not.

However, by the time President George W. Bush (43) came into office, the son had a deeply pro-Israel perspective, famously underscored in his helicopter ride over the Israeli landscape, where he saw how tiny the waist of Israel was and how endangered it was by its enemies. He remarked, “We have driveways in Texas longer than Israel’s width.”

Bush 43’s grandfather, Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush, like elder statesman Ambassador Joseph Kennedy in the 1930s, was closer to the German government and the Arab nations than to the victimized pre-Israel European Jewish community. But, like President John F. Kennedy and his brother Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was murdered by a Palestinian Arab in Los Angeles for being “too supportive of Israel,” President Bush 43 grew to respect Jewish history and to adopt the original and classic philo-semitism, restorationism and Christian Zionism of his namesake ancestor.

In the two-term presidency of George W. Bush, American Jews and Israelis alike came to admire his deeply affectionate moral commitment to the longstanding strategic alliance between the United States and the restored Jewish state.


Larry Greenfield is a fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.