I Am Cyrus: Harry Truman’s Key Role in the Rebirth of Israel
by Dr. Craig von Buseck
On May 8, 1884, in the small village of Lamar, Missouri, a horse and mule trader named John Anderson Truman rejoiced with his wife, Martha, at the birth of a healthy baby boy. The following day a Baptist circuit rider, Rev. Washington Pease, paid a visit to see the new baby. Without warning he lifted the newborn and carried him out of the small, dimly-lit clapboard house and into the brilliant Missouri sunlight. Lifting little Harry S. Truman into the air, with the sunlight reflecting in his eyes, the preacher declared “Yes, he will be a strong boy.”
Three years earlier a different kind of birth occurred in 1881 when Tsar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated and the authorities blamed the Jews. A major anti-Jewish pogrom swept across Russia and spread into Eastern Europe, bringing death and mayhem in its wake. As a result of this persecution, leading Jews started a movement called “Lovers of Zion”, spurred on by Leon Pinsker’s pamphlet Auto-Emancipation, encouraging Jews to immigrate to their ancient homeland in Palestine. This was the birth of the modern Zionist Movement.
The life of Harry S. Truman intersected with the Zionist Movement with monumental historic ramifications as the world considered the fate of the Jews after the Holocaust.
It fell to the former farmer and haberdasher from Kansas City to decide whether the world would keep its promise to the Jews, given in the famous Balfour Declaration during World War I, offering a homeland in Palestine—the ancient Promised Land.
The grandchild of pioneers who led wagon trains across “the great American desert” to California, Harry Truman was limited by poor eyesight that caused him to be held back from sports and rough-housing by his protective mother. To fill the hours, young Harry took to reading at an early age, with a particular love for biography and history. In time, he would read every book in the library of his hometown of Independence, Missouri. When he was ten, his mother bought him a set of large illustrated biographies by Charles Francis Horne, Great Men and Famous Woman. Inspired, he dreamed of one day becoming a great military leader. He would also read through the Bible twice by the time he was 12-years-old, and several times after that.
As Harry matured, so did the Zionist Movement. The Russian Jews who entered Palestine beginning in the 1880s were idealistic colonizers determined to tame the land. The soil was sandy and rocky, water was scarce, marshes were full of malaria, and the settlers had little agricultural experience. But soon the powerful Baron Edmond James de Rothschild was made aware of the settlement and was convinced to become a benefactor. With his help, major progress was made and soon thousands of Jews were pouring into what they called “Eretz Israel.”
World War I was a key turning point for both Harry Truman and the Zionist Movement. Harry rose to the rank of Captain during the heavy fighting in France and learned that he had the abilities needed to lead men. The Zionist Movement experienced a major breakthrough in November of 1917 with the adoption of The Balfour Declaration—a promise enshrined in international law by the League of Nations in the British Mandate during the post-war peace process.
In the following quarter of a century the Jewish people came perilously close to losing their promised homeland in their ancient Promised Land. When the Nazi’s seized power in Germany, the Jews of Europe suddenly faced the nightmare of life under Hitler. As the Allies moved through Europe in World War II, the reality of the Nazi’s crimes against the Jews became fully known. The world was shocked by the wanton murder of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi’s.
Harry Truman succeeded Franklin Roosevelt as President in April of 1948 as World War II raged on. President Truman was faced with the overwhelming task of finding homes for the hundreds of thousands of homeless Jews left in refugee camps across Europe. Most of Truman’s advisors feared a coming war with the Soviet Union and counseled the president against supporting a Jewish state and angering the Arabs—whose oil would be needed.
But in May of 1948, as the British pulled out of Palestine, five Arab armies sat on the border of Jewish Palestine, ready to invade. On that fateful day, David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Jews, stood in Tel Aviv and declared the establishment of the State of Israel. This momentous proclamation ended nearly 2,000 years of Jewish exile.
Eleven minutes after Israel became a nation at midnight on May 15, 1948, President Harry S. Truman directed the United States to become the first nation to recognize the new Jewish State. Harry Truman did what he thought was right—and as a result played a part in seeing biblical prophecy fulfilled.
The following year, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, met with the president in the White House and told Truman, “he had been given the task once fulfilled by the mighty king of Persia, and that he too, like Cyrus, would occupy a place of honor in the annals of the Jewish people.”
Soon after leaving the White House in 1953, Truman was invited to speak at the Hebrew Theological Seminary in NYC. When he was introduced by his friend, Eddie Jacobson, as the leader who helped create the State of Israel, Truman snapped, “What do you mean ‘helped create’? I am Cyrus!”
The world celebrates three remarkable anniversaries this year: the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration; the 70th Anniversary of the U.N.’s vote on the partition of western Palestine; and the 70th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel. In this momentous year, watch for the new book by Craig von Buseck, I Am Cyrus—the remarkable story of Harry S. Truman and his part in the rebirth of Israel.
Dr. Craig von Buseck is an author, speaker and writer for Inspiration TV and Ministries. Learn more at www.vonbuseck.com.
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