How "Christian Zionism" played a role in the early days of America: Jews and the Founding of America These Puritans viewed their emigration from England as a virtual re-enactment of the Exodus. To them, England was Egypt, the king was the Pharaoh, the Atlantic Ocean was the Red Sea, America was the Land of Israel, and the Indians were the ancient Canaanites. The Puritans were the new Israelites, entering into a new covenant with God in a new Promised Land. Thanksgiving - first celebrated in 1621, a year after the Mayflower landed - was initially conceived as a day parallel to the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; it was to be a day of fasting, introspection and prayer. Writes Gabriel Sivan in The Bible and Civilization: "No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the biblical drama of the Hebrew nation... these Puritans dramatized their own situation as the righteous remnant of the Church corrupted by the "Babylonian woe" and saw themselves as instruments of Divine Providence, a people chosen to build their new commonwealth on the Covenant entered into at Mount Sinai." Jewish Symbolism in America The Hebrew Bible also played a central role in the founding of various educational institutions including Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Rutgers, Princeton, Brown, King's College (later to be known as Columbia), Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth etc. In virtually all of these colleges, Bible studies were required and some even adopted some Hebrew word or phrase as part of their official emblem or seal. Beneath the banner containing the Latin Lux et Veritas, the Yale seal shows an open book with the Hebrew Urim V'Timum, a part of the breastplate of the High Priest in the days of the Temple. The Columbia seal has the Hebrew name for God at the top center, with the Hebrew name for one of the angels on a banner toward the middle. Dartmouth uses the Hebrew words meaning "God Almighty" in a triangle in the upper center of its seal. So popular was the Hebrew language in the late 17th and early 18th centuries that Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Pennsylvania taught courses in Hebrew - all the more remarkable because no university in England at the time offered such - and students had the option of delivering commencement speeches in Hebrew, Latin or Greek. Many of the Founding Fathers of America were products of these universities - for example, Thomas Jefferson attended William and Mary, James Madison - Princeton, Alexander Hamilton - King's College. Thus, we can be sure that a majority of these political leaders were not only well acquainted with the contents of the Bible, but also had some working knowledge of Hebrew. Notes Abraham Katsch in The Biblical Heritage of American Democracy: "At the time of the American Revolution, the interest in the knowledge of Hebrew was so widespread as to allow the circulation of the story that "certain members of Congress proposed that the use of English be formally prohibited in the United States, and Hebrew substituted for it." Their biblical education colored the American founders' attitude toward not only religion and ethics, but most significantly, politics. We see them adopting the biblical motifs of the Puritans for political reasons. For example, the struggle of the ancient Hebrews against the wicked Pharaoh came to embody the struggle of the colonists against English tyranny. Numerous examples can be found which clearly illustrate to what a significant extent the political struggles of the colonies were identified with the ancient Hebrews: -The first design for the official seal of the United States recommended by Benjamin Franklin, John -Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1776 depicted the Jews crossing the Red Sea. The motto around the seal read: "Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God." -The inscription on the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was a direct quote from the Book of Leviticus "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."5 -Patriotic speeches and publications during the period of the struggle for independence were often infused with biblical quotations. The basic framework of America clearly reflects the influence of the Bible and power of Jewish ideas in shaping the political development of America. Nowhere is this more evident than in the opening sentences of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." President George Washington remembered the Jewish contribution when the first synagogue opened in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1790. (It was called the Touro Synagogue and it was Sephardic.) He sent this letter, dated August 17, 1790: "May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in the land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit safely under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid." Note the reference to the "vine and fig-tree." That unique phrase is a reference to the words of Prophet Micah, prophesying the Messianic utopia: "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for Torah shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."