What was the Balfour Declaration?
The Balfour Declaration was regarded the Zionist movement’s biggest success prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1917 Lord Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, sent his famous sixty-seven word letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, an active Zionist and leader of the British Jewish community.
This text was delivered to Lord Rothschild’s home in London, after he had asked the government to clarify its intentions regarding Palestine.
The following day Lord Rothschild sent a handwritten note of thanks to the foreign minister.
Dear Mr. Balfour,
I write to thank you most sincerely for your letter and also for the great interest you have shown in the wishes of the large mass of the Jewish people and also for the efforts and trouble you have taken on our behalf. I can assure you that the gratitude of ten millions of people will be yours, for the British Government has opened up, by their message, a prospect of safety and comfort to large masses of people who are in need of it.
I dare say you have been informed that already in many parts of Russia renewed persecution has broken out.
With renewed thanks to you and His Majesty's Government,
As can be seen in the following sources, this was the first time that a nation of the world had supported the Jewish claim to Israel, and was an enormous shot in the arm to the efforts of both Zionists working worldwide, as well as the Yishuv, the Jewish residents of pre-state Israel.
In the following sources, you can learn more about the Balfour Declaration itself, the responses from Zionists, non-Zionists, and non-Jewish groups, and its lasting effects. This was the first time that any nation had expressed support for the Jewish claim to Israel, and it was thus a great boost to both Zionists worldwide and the Yishuv (the Jewish residents of pre-state Israel). The reaction of British newspapers was particularly noteworthy, with the Scottish newspaper The Scotsman declaring, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”