Balfour Day: A Call For Celebration
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.”
On November 2, 1917 the Jewish people got public validation of our ancient hope and another step towards building a state of our own 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.
This was the first recognition by a world power of both a potential rebirth of the national home for the Jewish people, and their historical link to the land of Israel.
"With one step the Jewish cause has made a great bound forward…a new epoch for our race…Amidst all that is so dark and dismal and tragic throughout the world, there has thus arisen for the Jews a great light. It is the perceptible lifting of the cloud of centuries, the palpable sign that the Jew-condemned for two thousand years to unparalleled wrong – is at last coming to his right."Jewish Chronicle, 1917
Not only was this letter the first political recognition of Jewish nationalism by a world power; it was a reflection of the philosophical, practical, and spiritual meaning behind the restoration of the Jewish nation in our own land.
“We are met on the most momentous occasion in the history of Judaism for the last eighteen hundred years. We are here to return thanks to His Majesty's Government for a declaration which marked an epoch - for the first time since the dispersion, the Jewish people have received their proper status by the declaration of one of the great powers."
As with any historical event, there were many political influences surrounding the decision and its aftermath. But above all else, it 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.
Sokolka, Russia And The Balfour Declaration
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! The Jews of Russia and Poland. Downtrodden, suppressed, a target for contempt and ridicule among the nations who saw them as a scapegoat, suddenly straightened their backs and stood up straight.
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Approved by the British cabinet, the Balfour Declaration laid the conceptual basis for international support for the creation of a Jewish state. "The Balfour Declaration was not an impetuous or sentimental act of the British government, as has been sometimes represented, or a calculated measure of political warfare. It was a deliberate decision of British policy and idealist politics, weighed and reweighed, and adopted only after full consultation with the United States and with other Allied Nations."
"The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. . . . We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home. . . . We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is nationalist and not imperialist. And there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other." Amir Faisal, the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks, who later signed an agreement with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.
The Balfour Declaration 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." These essential steps paved the way for the vote at the United Nations to establish the modern State of Israel that we cherish today.
That was Balfour then.
What does that mean for us today?
What does that mean for us today?
In honor of the Balfour Declaration, let us reinstate an annual celebration of Balfour Day!
A celebration of the Balfour Declaration invites a deeper understanding of the long history of our struggle to create a place where the Jewish people could live free in our ancient homeland. "Balfour Day: What an opportunity to remind the world, and particularly the West, that Israel was established with the full backing and support of the international community. "
"Balfour Day is something we should be celebrating, and utilizing to our national advantage. It is a day ripe with meaning, with positive Zionist fulfillment. It was a watershed on the road to Israel's establishment, and it provides compelling evidence that Israel's right to statehood was universally recognized and unassailable. It provides us with a chance, year in and year out, to underline our internationally-recognized right to be here, something which far too many people around the world seem to have forgotten."