The Meaning of Balfour: Celebrating the legacy

Imagine the world of European Jewry in 1917. So many streams of activity were taking place as World War I neared its end, with political and nationalistic endeavors taking center stage. Simultaneously, Jews were increasingly welcomed in some areas while increasingly threatened in others.

Few people realize that only at this late date were some Jews finally receiving freedoms previously unknown in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, Russia and elsewhere. While some sought an assimilated social reality in the arms of the cosmopolitan centers of the world, for others, the desire for Jewish freedom could be found in the creation of a home for the Jewish people in our ancient land.

The manifestation of the Balfour Declaration meant a great deal far beyond just the Zionist activism of the day. It emerged from a long history of recognition of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, an undeniable link that had been respected by every faith, every race, every nation throughout history. The reference to Palestine implied a Jewish land, long before the State of Israel was born.

For Jews throughout the world, the dream of a return to Zion has forever been a centerpiece of Jewish prayer and to which we have maintained ties for over 3700 years in exile. With the Balfour Declaration, this dream was finally affirmed by a world power who sought to help bring that dream to life.

We are now immersed in a different spectrum of activity, where politicized messages convolute the meaningful reality of Israel’s existence. We are surrounded on all sides by messages of hate, and we trust in the good work being done by the various advocacy organizations and representational bodies around the world helping to defend and protect the image of the Israel.

In the process of the growing conflict, growing division has occurred. We have forgotten that, with all of the diversity of the Jewish Diaspora, it is Israel that has the potential to unite us and provide a common ground. The importance of this concept and the history on which it is founded has been forgotten amidst the whirlwind of differing opinions, political ideologies. and conflicting narratives.

I anticipate that many might react with surprise (or chagrin?) to such a statement, seeing the world and judging Israel through the glasses colored by their stance on the conflict or other current affairs emerging from her many difficult situations. But, indeed, it is Israel – this very land which bears the name of our People – that affirms our historical lineage and shall, with our collective initiative, continue to persevere.

Of all the nations in the world, it is the Children of Israel who have outlasted every attempt of destruction. It was here we were made into a people; it was here that the first Jewish state thrived. It was here that we won, lost, killed and were killed to defend our right to be here in this one small place of the world we can call our own. After 2000 years in forced exile, the dream of Jerusalem, Zion, Israel has remained a constant part of our Jewish soul, prayer, community and identity. 

It makes sense that, in the world of 1917, a statement of support for this dream could awaken a deep appreciation for our ancient heritage that binds us as one.

We at The Israel Forever Foundation hope to reignite that feeling of appreciation and evoke a demonstration of commitment to the continued existence of our one and only Jewish state. As we now arrive at 95 years since the Balfour Declaration, we invite you to honor one the many steps of history that helped bring about the establishment of the State of Israel by SIGNING YOUR NAME to the Balfour Declarationreviving the memory and understanding of this first “international birth certificate,” protecting its legacy, and demonstrating that you, too, recognize our right to exist, as a people, as a nation, and as a state on our only ancestral land. 

We each feel, from our different corners of the world, a connection with the hills where our ancestors walked, the communities where they lived and were buried, where our holy Temple once stood, and where our history is rooted. We each embrace differing ideologies and have our own opinions on the state of affairs in Israel today. But in honor of Balfour Day, we invite you to leave your politics at the door.

Our discussions and debates are likely to be as eternal as the existence of the Jewish people. The divisions between us can, and likely will, still exist. But there still remains the possibility that, at the very least, we have one thing that we shall forever share in common: WE WILL PROTECT ISRAEL FOREVER –  for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations of the Jewish People.

We will not allow the enemies of Israel to destroy the one common bond be share, in spite of our different beliefs, different practices, different ideologies, different identities, and different nationalities. It is this diversity which makes so many of us proud to be Jews. We will know that we will never allow our historical link to Israel to be ignored, denied, or maligned. We will know that we shall never again have to know what it is to live in a world where Jews throughout history have called home.

Let us celebrate what unites us.
And may we all enjoy a Happy Balfour Day!


About the Author
Elana Yael Heideman, PhD is is the Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, an Israel Engagement organization dedicated to celebrating and strengthening the personal connection to Israel for people across the globe.