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Friday Night's Sermon: Celebrating 100 years of the Balfour Declaration


The British government decided to endorse the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. After discussions within the cabinet and consultations with Jewish leaders, the decision was made public in a letter from British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild. The contents of this letter became known as the Balfour Declaration.

Foreign Office November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet

His Majesty's Government view with favour 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, 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.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours,

Arthur James Balfour

And with that, the State of Israel was born. Happy 100th birthday to the idea of our own state, 2000 years in the making. This is cause for celebrating.

Gil Troy, a professor of American history at Canada’s McGill University discusses the concept in a commentary that was first published in the Jerusalem Post and then re-published in the Huffington Post. He writes that Israel was born out of a new world nationalism born out of World War I that would give rise to many modern countries. While other countries were celebrating their homes with a sense of pride, they also realized that Jews really had nowhere else to go. As a people dispossessed of their ancient home, we migrated from country to country. In a way, this was the world dealing with the “Problem of Jews”. We don’t what to do with them, let’s just give them back their land.

Or is it? With the celebration of we Jews, Israelites really, re-establishing our rightful home comes the contention of local enemies and ire of much of the world. That same organization that voted to establish the modern state of Israel now has established a monthly tradition of enacting resolutions that condemn it for oppressing and dispossessing supposedly indigenous people.

Some have said that England had no right to cede that land to Jews at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians. It wasn’t theirs to give; it was imperialism. The British created the problem.

Now, if we look at reality, Jews have always inhabited our land. We were the first to settle it 3500 years ago. When we returned to our land, it was nothing but arid desert and mosquito-infested swamps. Through toil and effort, we made our paradise into a paradise.

Many people criticize Israel as an oppressive, occupying regime. They say that the Palestinians are the rightful heirs to their land and the Israelis have overtaken their home and cut off their supplies. The want nothing short of the expulsion of the Jews. They are not anti-Semitic, mind you, just anti-Israel.

They ignore the facts. The first obvious fact is that in all that time, the people who inhabited the land, the so-called Palestinians, did nothing to make the land habitable. The second thing they ignore is that that region, Israel, was set up for partitions of Jewish and Arab quarters where the two people would live together in harmony. Jordan immediately annexed the area called the West Bank and then Arab-incited terrorist attacks started happening immediately. Third, people ignore in 2005 how Israel ceded last Gaza and part of the West Bank to the Palestinians in a land for peace deal. The Palestinians got the land, but the Israeli’s didn’t get the peace.

Where do we go from here? What about the next 100 years? That really depends on the world and local community. We had been without our home land for 1800 years. Since that time, we were a people displaced. While many of us do not live in the promised land, we certainly support it. And we are not ready to give it up anytime soon.

#ParashVayeira #TorahPortion

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