One of Zionism’s first champions was an Evangelical protestant layman and successful real estate entrepreneur from Oak Park named William Eugene Blackstone.
After an 1888 visit to Palestine, Blackstone became convinced that the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland was a necessary forerunner to the second coming of the Christian Messiah. In 1891 Blackstone drew up a petition calling for the creation of a national homeland in Palestine as a haven for the two million oppressed Jews of Russia. More than 400 prominent individuals signed Blackstone’s appeal. The petition was submitted to Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Woodrow Wilson.