Israel versus Judaism



The Balfour Declaration

In the meantime, Zionist leaders continued "pulling strings" in the international arena. The first World War presented the best opportunity for such activity. Almost all the major powers were approached with offers implying the possibility of support by "World Jewry" in return for their consent to support a "Jewish National Home" in Palestine. Once it became clear that Britain would conquer Palestine from the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the string pulling was intensified on the British scene. Finally, on November 2, 1917, the famous Balfour Declaration was issued by the late Lord Balfour who stated in the House of Commons that "H.M. Government would welcome the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine".

Those "in the know", and particularly within the Zionist leadership, knew that this declaration, in the text in which it had been given, did not exactly constitute a victory for the cause which Zionists had striven to achieve, and was later to be a source of all kinds of troubles and even bloody riots during the 25 years of the British Mandate. This fact, however, in no way diminished Jewish enthusiasm, and in many quarters the Balfour Declaration was compared to nothing less than the Declaration of Cyrus authorizing the rebuilding of the Second Temple (Ezra 1, 2).

At this point, we are for the first time in the history of Zionism confronted with an event of a certain degree of universal significance; and, in the profound belief in Divine Providence governing and directing even the minutest human action, many people regarded this as a case of the "finger of G-d", as an omen, a Heavenly sign to the effect that Zionism had been endorsed by Heaven. Even more was this felt after Britain had received the Mandate over Palestine from the League of Nations, and sent Sir (now Lord) Herbert Samuel as its first High Commissioner to Jerusalem. Sir Herbert (enthusiastically designated as “First Governor of Judea” (Hanatziv harishon li-Yehuda) by some poetically inclined writers of the day),walked on his first Day of Atonement in Jerusalem all the way from the High Commissioner's Residence on top of a hill on Mount Scopus in the far North of the City, to the "Churva" Synagogue in the Old City, which is in the East of the City, and was there called to the Torah for "Maftir". He was moved to tears when pronouncing the words "on his (David's) Throne no stranger will sit". One can easily imagine that all these dramatic events aroused Messianic hopes in the heart of many. Many people in Jerusalem will still remember that some congregations included in the portion of the Kaddish containing the prayer for Messianic redemption, the words "during the lifetime of Eliezer the son of Menahem" (Lord Samuel's Hebrew name), a form used in ancient days for the Princes of Judea.

Note that question marks or other strange characters in the text represent Hebrew characters which do not display on the web page.

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