Today is Monday 20th of MarCheshvan 5776 and November 2, 2015
Today in 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Rothschild.
The contents of the letter stated:
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The letter was facilitated by Dr. Chaim Weizmann who pressured Balfour to write the letter.
During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann’s objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda rather than in Palestine.
According to Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:
“Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” He sat up, looked at me, and answered: “But Dr. Weizmann, we have London.” “That is true,” I said, “but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.” He … said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: “Are there many Jews who think like you?” I answered: “I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves.”
The letter was hailed by many Jews as a milestone in the battle for international recognition of their rights to Eretz Yisroel.
The American Jewish Zionist Newspaper, the Maccabaean termed the Balfour Declaration, ‘The Jewish Magna Carta,’ The American Jewish Chronicle, “A Turning Point in Jewish History,” The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, the “The End of the Galut.” A popular Yiddish daily, Dos Yiddishe Folk, stated, “for the first time in two thousand years we again enter into the arena of world history as a nation which deserves a national home.” The religious Zionist movement, Mizrahi, issued a statement that “It seems that Holy Providence which guided Israel in its long night of exile is about to reward the Jewish people for all their suffering and tribulations.”
Rav Kook Zt”l, who was in London at the time of the declaration, remarked:
“I have not come here to thank the British nation, but even more, to congratulate it for the privilege of making this declaration. The Jewish nation is the ‘scholar’ among the nations, the ‘people of the book,’ a nation of prophets; and it is a great honor for any nation to aid it. I bless the British nation for having extended such honorable aid to the people of the Torah, so that they may return to their land and renew their homeland.” (ibid)
It is now almost 100 years since the declaration has been issued. Indeed, as the declaration stated: “Palestine (has become) a national home for the Jewish people.” However, we are still not considered “the ‘scholar’ among the nations” as Rav Kook hoped for and certainly The Canadian Jewish Chronicle’s headline that the declaration represented, “The End of the Galut” is at best highly questionable.
However, that being said, are things better for the Jewish people as a whole in the Land of Israel than they were in 1917?
I think most of us would unhesitatingly reply that, ‘most certainly; they are much better now’.
And for that we say, “Thank you Hashem”.