This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible, which established the enduring English-speaking biblical link with Western culture. Newt's history lesson is a challenge to look again at the way the country of the Israelites (as the King James Bible poetically calls the Jews) is significant to our own past in a way that Palestine is not.
A new book about the Jews cuts through the current fads of multiculturalism to demonstrate the important contributions of an inherited culture. In "The People of the Book," Gertrude Himmelfarb shows how the foundation of modern English culture is rooted in the Bible, the largest part of which, the Old Testament, is holy to the Jews, and that it was the King James Version that created a Renaissance in England that was as profound as the revival of classical learning on the continent.
While the author's intention is partially to examine English "philosemitism," which runs counter to the strain of anti-Semitism in contemporary England, she identifies the cultural antecedents in the Jewish religion. These antecedents sharply contrast to the Middle Eastern culture, which is so dependent on the Quran, a book fundamentally at odds with the message in both the Old and New Testament.
History, as Newt knows, is rich with many lessons. Himmelfarb recalls that Arthur Balfour, David Lloyd George's foreign secretary and the man responsible for the declaration on which Israeli independence is based, looked to his "Old Testament training" to justify his Zionist leanings as moral, buttressing the intellectual and political arguments. He was convinced that he could not ignore history and that the Jewish people, who were homeless, should be restored to their Old Testament home. This was no recent invention.