The extraordinary life of Christian Zionist ‘John the Priest’

All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.




(the israel bible)

March 19, 2023

3 min read

A friend recently attended a burial service at Jerusalem’s Alliance Church International Cemetery and kindly sent me photos of graves of some of my friends who have passed to glory. But he also included this photo of a grave marker I had never seen before.

It’s the gravestone of a very famous Christian Zionist, John Stanley Grauel. I shared the photo and following story with some of my fellow Christian Zionists, who were all enthralled by it.

And I have to say this is the most beautiful and profound epitaph featuring the special designation and famous Talmudic dictum:  “He who saves a single life is as if he has saved the entire world.”

To merit that saying as the summary of one’s life requires a selah moment for anybody passing by.

John Stanley Grauel (December 12, 1917 – September 6, 1986) and nicknamed in Hebrew on the gravestone as “John the Priest,” was a Methodist minister and significantly, a crew member of the Aliyah Bet ship Exodus 1947. He was a secret Haganah operative.

Grauel is credited with being the key individual who persuaded the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine to recommend for the Partition Resolution of November 1947, creating the State of Israel.

In a speech to the Jewish Agency, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir referred to his testimony as the first appeal by a “priest, a perfectly worthy gentile, a priori, no Jewish witness was to be believed” (more details here).

How does a Christian become a supporter of the Jewish people?

As I’ve often said, every true Christian should honor and support Israel because the root of the Hebrew Scriptures supports our faith. However, it is often the influence of godly parents (as in my own case) that sets a Christian on course to advocate on behalf of the Jewish people.

Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the mother of John Stanley Grauel was deeply religious and impressed her son with her beliefs.

The family lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, but became migrants during the Great Depression until settling in my home state of Virginia. There Grauel studied at the Randolph–Macon College as a pre-theological student. His father died from cancer in 1936, and Grauel supported the family doing various jobs. In 1941, he completed his education, graduating from the Theological Seminary, in Bangor, Maine, as a Methodist minister. During his final year he was married, but tragically his wife and son died due to complications at childbirth. It is often the case that persons called to walk along side the Jewish people have known a measure of suffering.

Grauel became very aware of the European Holocaust and the Zionist movement in 1942 through his close friendship with Massachusetts Judge Joseph Goldberg. In 1942, he joined the American Palestine Committee, which was dedicated to the establishment of a Jewish state. In 1943 he gave up church ministry to assume a position as a director of the committee’s Philadelphia office. In 1944, attending his first Zionist meeting, Grauel met David Ben-Gurion, the future first prime minister of Israel. He learned of the Haganah, the Jewish underground army, and the longtime humanitarian efforts of Haganah to save Jewish lives from the Holocaust by smuggling Jews into Eretz Israel. Grauel enlisted in the effort immediately, leading a double life working for the America Palestine Committee and the Jewish underground.

Grauel became part of the Mossad LeAliyah Bet and sailed aboard the “illegal” refugee ship Exodus 1947 on March 23, 1947. Haganah put him aboard as a secret operative, under the cover of a foreign correspondent for the Episcopal journal, The Churchman. Grauel’s mission was to get the story of Exodus 1947 out to the world.

In Europe Grauel organized and transferred refugees from the displaced persons camps to the ship. Filling multiple roles, he acted as an administrative executive, quartermaster, cook and a liaison for the crew and the refugees.

Exodus 1947, heavily overburdened with 4,515 refugees, was intercepted and captured by Royal Navy destroyers off the coast of Haifa, in a brief violent boarding that left two refugees and one crew member dead. Grauel was arrested by the British and put under house arrest at Tel Aviv’s Savoy Hotel. Learning that the hotel lobby was filled with journalists from around the world, he managed to escape to tell them about Exodus 1947, and with help from Haganah, he escaped before the police arrived.

After his escape, Haganah helped bring Grauel to meet a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine to give firsthand testimony, emphatically declaring that there were no weapons aboard Exodus 1947 during the violent boarding. He was brought later to give a direct testimony before the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. His firsthand testimony was extremely effective in eliciting sympathy and understanding for the cause of unrestricted Jewish refugee immigration to the Promised Land.

Let us never forget that Grauel’s testimony and advocacy for the creation of the Jewish State fundamentally and positively changed the United Nations to support the creation of Israel. His memory is a blessing.

Christine Darg is founder of The Jerusalem Channel and can be reached at

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