Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Remember: Bet b'November

The U.S. elections may be overwhelming the headlines, but Jews should remember that today was once observed as a quasi-holiday by Jews around the world. Balfour Day, known in Hebrew as Bet b'November, marks the November 2, 1917 issuance of the Balfour Declaration by the British government.

Its text:

"His Majesty's Government views 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."

This was the first declaration of official support for Zionism by a world government. On its basis, Britain was awarded the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine after World War I, with the explicit purpose of implementing the Balfour Declaration and building a Jewish national home in the ancient Jewish homeland.

The Balfour Declaration was a key achievement in the process of establishing the State of Israel. Naturally, the actual establishment of the state has overshadowed pre-state milestones, but still it is a shame that Balfour Day has been nearly forgotten by Jews today, in Israel and abroad. If we forget the historical basis for Israel's legitimacy, we concede one more front in our struggle for survival to our enemies.

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