Imagine that you have an impossible dream – a dream that you’ve had every night of your life. Then imagine you are told that your dream will come true, and you are told this by a person who has the power to actually make it happen. How would you feel?
Now imagine everyone you know has the same dream – a dream that your parents, and their parents, all had, as well. How would they feel when they are told that their dream will come true, too?
I imagine that is how the Jewish community felt on Nov. 2, 1917, when Lord Balfour, on behalf of the U.K. government, wrote to Lord Rothschild, saying that, “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.”
This important correspondence became known as the Balfour Declaration. It was a very big deal.
It is hard now, 100 years later, to sense the exhilaration that was felt at the time. It is impossible to feel how important the Balfour Declaration was to the Jewish People, how thankful world Jewry was to Lord Balfour for doing this and how, with this one letter, Jews around the world started to see their future in a totally different way. But it is important to try.
As we now have the State of Israel, and most of us never experienced the world before it, we run the risk of not appreciating it enough. Thanks to the Ontario Jewish Archives, we can see how the Jewish community of Ontario celebrated the Balfour Declaration. From this, we can extrapolate the joyous celebrations in Jewish communities around the world.
The Balfour Declaration was an important step towards the creation of a national home for the Jewish People. With Israel’s independence in 1948, we have a national home at last, and with our continued dedication and commitment to the State of Israel, we will have a national home to last.
This is what was celebrated in 1917. We should continue the celebration each and every day.
David Matlow is a partner at Goodmans LLP, the chair of the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto, a director of the Ontario Jewish Archives and owns the world’s largest Herzl collection outside the Zionist Archives in Jerusalem.