What 1 Million Signatures Mean
By Rachel Brynien
Sitting on my campus back in the United States, every discussion on Israel seems to be dominated by debate, conflict, and ugly lies and distortions of history and reality. Yet, as I sit looking out my window overlooking the beautiful and peaceful city of Jerusalem while on a summer internship program, I cannot help but think about how the State of Israel was able to overcome all odds and accomplish all that it has to become the great country that it is.
The Jewish State has become a beacon of light and hope for the Jewish people and humanity as a whole who continuously benefit from the innovation, technology and rescue efforts of this small miraculous country.
The victory of the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in our homeland was not achieved overnight; It was through the endless efforts of those who came before who tirelessly worked to bring our dream to life. Early Zionists fought so that one day our Jewish state could be a reality.
Through their passion and commitment, they succeeded in swaying public opinion and won over the political leadership of the British government. The Zionist leaders and communities around the world became the recipients of a 67-word document that would forever change the way the world would view Israel as a nation and as a legitimate political entity.
That momentous document, the Balfour Declaration, served as the first public recognition of the Jewish connection to their ancestral land by a world power since Napoleon’s grand statement affirming this historical fact in 1799. Yes, Balfour’s statement publicly confirmed our Jewish right to the land, but it was the continued support by international bodies at San Remo, League of Nations and even the United Nations and, most importantly, world Jewry continuously over the past 100 hundred years that truly allowed for Israel’s prosperity and growth.
Over the past year, The Israel Forever Foundation succeeded in launching and fulfilling the 1MillionFor100Years campaign in hopes of garnering signatures to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. But what, really, do these signatures mean?
Every name and every partner organization that has signed on represents someone who is adding their voice to reaffirm the global recognition of our historical rights to the land of Israel.
To me, these signatures represent 1 million people who acknowledge my right to pray at the Kotel, to hike in the desert in my hebrew t-shirt, and to return to my ancestral homeland, the State of Israel. By gathering these signatures we, the Jewish people, are continuing our fight to be in the land where our people originated.
This internationally recognized declaration is still relevant today, not because it “gave” us the State of Israel, but because it serves as an affirmation of our ancestral rights. These signatures show the support it receives globally - signing the initiative is more than just adding a name to a document. It is declaring one's dedication and commitment to the protection of Jewish rights, and allowing those rights to be expressed in our homeland.
Each individual who reaffirms the Balfour Declaration is the reason that I am able to stand on my balcony in Jerusalem, watching Jews from all over the world come together.
As a Jewish college student in America I have seen anti-Zionism and Antisemitism again and again. This past year, BDS made its way onto my campus, and although the proposed resolution thankfully did not pass, it was horrifying to see all of the students who were in support of the bill.
During our Israel Fest, an apartheid wall built in protest to our festivities. I am beyond lucky to attend a university where the anti-Zionism and Antisemitism is not at an extreme; however, many of my friends are not as fortunate as I. I have friends who are afraid to wear their Jewish star necklace to class, in fear that their teacher will know they are Jewish and fail them. This is the reality for students all over America and the world.
The million signatures gathered represent a million people fighting for our ability to feel safe, fighting for our rights as Jews to express ourselves and our love for the land of Israel. In 1917, the British government started a movement of international recognition of our Jewish homeland based on historical rights that, somehow over the past few decades, has been continuously delegitimized.
The million signatures on the Balfour Initiative continue to confirm our rights each and every day. We the Jewish people must continue to fight the way the early Zionists did. We must continue to take action so that we won’t have to defend what should be obvious - the Jewish people have a right to live free in our ancestral homeland with no questions asked.
Born and raised outside of Philadelphia, Rachel Brynien is a rising junior at the University of Maryland. After taking a gap year in Israel, she decided to bring together her passion for traveling, culture, and problem-solving by majoring in International Relations.