Henry Wentworth Monk

Henry Wentworth Monk, an early Canadian Christian Zionist

Henry Wentworth MonkHenry Wentworth Monk was born on April 6, 1827, in Ontario, Canada. When he was seven years old, his father sent him to Christ’s Hospital in England to be formally educated. Monk found life there unbearable, and would often take refuge in escapist fantasies. Later, he studied divinity in London.

It was in London that Monk was first exposed to Zionist thought. An early incident that had tremendous impact on his young mind was when he heard a speech by Lord Shaftesbury in 1839 or 1840. Shaftesbury, at the time, showed great interest in establishing a British protectorate in Palestine, and restoring the Jews to their “rightful home.” Monk was apparently very moved by the speech and began reading whatever he could find on the subject of proto-Zionism and the Jewish diaspora.

Upon returning to Canada in the 1840s, he began corresponding with Christian proto-Zionists in the United States (mostly mystics and millenarians). A pivotal moment would come when, in 1852, he decided he had discovered the “correct” interpretation of the Book of Revelation, after which he took a vow of poverty and left for Palestine.

Monk was convinced that what Revelation was foretelling was the establishment of Palestine as a sort of global capital, which would serve as a neutral ground where nations could settle their disputes via a permanent international tribunal, and, secondly, as a safe haven for the beleaguered Jews of the world.

As early as the 1870s, Monk wrote of the need for a modern port in Haifa and large-scale land reclamation if Palestine were to be settled by large numbers of Jews. Although both these assertions proved true and were fulfilled in time, Monk was never particularly successful in his life’s work. He received scant attention from the politicians he lobbied, and had little impact on the growing Zionist movement in Europe and North America. His writings were not widely distributed, though some were translated into Hebrew.

For the last decades of his life, he split his time between Canada, the United States, Palestine and Europe, trying to raise funds and lobbying for his cause. He launched the Palestine Restoration Fund (in 1875), which he would work on until his death. He died on August 24, 1896, in Canada. He was eulogized as a philosopher, a moralist and a crusader for justice. Today, he is almost completely forgotten.