100 Years Since Issuance of the Balfour Declaration

In the new year of 2017, Israel and its supporters worldwide will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the issuance of what became known as the Balfour Declaration, a landmark document in modern Zionist history.

Without doubt, the still emerging Zionist cause of the early twentieth century received its biggest boost on the world stage with the Balfour Declaration. The declaration was actually a letter written on November 2, 1917, by the then foreign secretary of Britain, Arthur James Balfour, to Baron Walter Rothschild. a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The letter promised the Jews a “national home” in Palestine, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire but was soon to be ruled under a British mandate.

Balfour (1848-1930) was prime minister of Britain from 1902 to 1905 and then foreign secretary from 1916 to 1919 during World War I.  His letter to Baron Rothschild stated: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object….”  The original document is kept at the British Library.

The letter, which represented the first political recognition of Zionist aims by a great power, was issued with the full backing of David Lloyd George, who served as prime minister of Britain from 1916 to 1922. Both men held a deep belief, nurtured by their Evangelical upbringing, in the divine destiny of the people of.

These two courageous figures had a greater impact on the advancement of the Zionist vision than any other Englishmen of their time. Together with Chaim Weizmann, then the Jewish leader of the Zionist cause, they crafted a declaration of support for a Jewish homeland whose message was unprecedented and revolutionary. It was hotly debated, but in the end, the Balfour Declaration was endorsed by the British Parliament. This single letter backing the Zionist cause was to have enormous consequences for the later establishment of the State of Israel in the Holy Land.

The names of both Balfour and Lloyd George have lived on in perpetuity in the modern State of Israel. One can see streets named in their honor in Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem and in other cities in the country.