A member of the House of Lords once asked Chaim Weizmann, “Why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many undeveloped countries you could settle in more conveniently?”
Weizmann responded: “That is like my asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street.”
Ninety-six years ago, on November 2, 1917, the Jewish People received public validation of our ancient hope for our return to this land when British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild, the head of the Zionist Federation, that expressed British support of a Jewish State in Palestine.
While this letter may have been the first political recognition of Jewish nationalism by a world power, it was a reflection of the long-standing philosophical, practical, historical and spiritual link of the Jewish nation to our ancient homeland.
This land that we call Israel today has changed names, rulers, and borders. But throughout the generations the historical link to the Jewish People has been remembered in some way by the nations and religions of the world even when we were scattered throughout the four corners of the universe. A connection established by history, perpetuated through prayer, and affirmed through archaeology, this land of “inconvenience” is the one land to which we as Jews can claim our ancestral lineage.
As with any historical event, there were many political influences and inferences surrounding the decision and its aftermath. More than just a reflection of imperialistic efforts of the British government (as some might claim), above all else, the Balfour Declaration was the outcome of years of struggle by Jewish and Zionist leaders for the right to establish a place where Jews would be free from the persecutions faced generation after generation, in every corner of the world.
Imagine the reaction of the world at that time. Imagine how this might have been received by Jews who had, for centuries, been persecuted, demonized, humiliated, downtrodden, divided.
“With the good news of the “Balfour Declaration” the town dressed itself in its festival finery. The town was joyous with happiness. No words can describe the soul-uplifting feeling and raised spirits that gripped the Jews of Sokółka. The Land of Israel for the Jewish people! Downtrodden, suppressed, a target for contempt and ridicule…suddenly straightened their backs and stood up straight…The biggest excitement came with the singing of The Hope, Hatikvah – “To return to the Land of our Fathers” – the dream of every Jew ”
Today we are witnessing attempts to damage the legacy of The Balfour Declaration, to alter the historical truth by diminishing its importance at that time and in that place. There are naysayers who seek to ignore its importance as a stepping stone in the creation of a legal and internationally recognized state for the Jewish People that later became part of The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which specifically referred to “the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine” and to the moral validity of “reconstituting their National Home in that country.” It was these documents and their supporters paved the way for the vote at the United Nations to establish the modern State of Israel that we cherish today.
Now there are attempts to demand of the British government to retract it, attempts that are being met with very little resistance. While the rights of the Jewish people to this land are much more fundamental than a British letter could ever be, we cannot afford to be apathetic and ignore the international proclamations that affirmed those rights.
As others seek to destroy historical truth through narratives conjured without any regard to the facts, it is our responsibility to declare our commitment to those facts. Just as the Declaration was heard and respected around the world at that time, so, too, its legacy should be preserved.
In an effort to ensure that the historical revisionism of our enemies does not succeed in erasing truth, NOW is the time to stand together and offer our own proclamation in honor of this internationally recognized document. Now you can SIGN YOUR NAME to the Balfour Declaration and ensure that the international recognition of the Jewish link to Israel NEVER be allowed to be diminished by those who seek to alter history in the name of hate.
Together, we can protect the meaning of Balfour and ignite a feeling of appreciation and commitment to the continued existence of our one and only Jewish state.