Death announcement of Lord Balfour, 1930
This poster is a notice of Lord Balfour’s death that was printed in Jerusalem in 1930, when news of his death reached Israel. The poster, entitled “Lord Balfour is no more,” was printed in Hebrew and issued by the first Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yaakov Meir.
There are a striking number of instructions contained within this announcement. In addition to the instructions regarding the memorial prayer, which is rarely said for non-Jews, the poster also decreed a general work break at the time of Lord Balfour’s funeral. The poster used larger and bold typeface to stress the most important elements of the announcement.
It is important to remember the historical context of Balfour’s death. The Yishuv was still recovering from the Arab riots of 1929, which reflected Arab hostility to Jewish national aspirations. The Yishuv was also suffering the effects of the Churchill White Paper of 1922, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine.
The extent of the respect and gratitude felt towards Lord Balfour is therefore not surprising, and the steps taken to ensure that the residents of Jerusalem were united in their recognition of Lord Balfour’s death were unprecedented.
In a further sign of their gratitude, the Yishuv embarked on a fundraising campaign to plant a new forest in Balfour’s name.
This poster could be used by Jewish History teachers to discuss the reaction of the Yishuv to Lord Balfour’s death. It could also be used in Jewish Studies classes on the history of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Yochanan ben Zakkai synagogue.
This source could be also used in Religious Studies classes dealing with the Jewish concept of gratitude (hakarat hatov).
Who issued this poster?
Whose death did the poster announce?
Where was the poster circulated?
What special measures to honour the deceased were announced in the poster?
Reading Between the Lines
Why do you think Lord Balfour’s death was seen as significant enough for such measures?
Why were these measures announced by the Chief Rabbi rather than a political figure?
Do you think that all these measures were appropriate?
Is expressing gratitude (hakarat hatov) a uniquely Jewish idea? Give some example from expressing gratitude both in Jewish and non-Jewish traditions.
Compare the different ways in which Israel has chosen to commemorate important leaders, such as Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Golda Meir. Do these commemorations differ from the way in which other countries remember their deceased leaders, and if so, how?
Lord Balfour is No More
On behalf of the great Rabbi, Rishon LeTzion [Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel] Yaakov Meir, we announce the following:
A. This coming Shabbat every synagogue will say a special memorial prayer for Lord Arthur James Balfour.
B. When we are informed of the date of the funeral, there will be a large memorial gathering in the Yochanan ben Zakkai synagogue.
C. In all houses of study, there will be a special memorial prayer on the day of the funeral.
D. On the day of the funeral, there will be a work break at the time of the ceremony (according to notice from London).
May Hashem have mercy on His people and His land.