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Balfour centenary: What is our hope and vision?

Rabbi Danny Rich, the senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism, gave this speech at Britain’s Broken Promise: Time for a New Approach, a conference on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, organised by the Balfour Project charity, which took at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, on October 31

    In common with much of world Jewry, I will, mark the centenary of the Balfour letter with thanks, pride, reflection and hope.

    Conscious of the 3000 year old historic link of the Jewish people with the ancient Biblical land and aware that the Balfour letter was the first external recognition of the rights of Jews to a national revival in the land of the Hebrew Bible, I recall with appreciation those early pioneers who, as exemplars, drained swamps, built kibbutzim and revived the Hebrew language.

    The ramifications of the Balfour letter included the establishment of the State of Israel which was to serve as a refuge for the broken souls, hearts and bodies of the victims of the Shoah, the attempt to destroy European Jewry in the middle of the 20th century.

    I cherish with pride many aspects of modern Israel including, for example, its impressive Supreme Court, its robust free press, and its life-giving development work on the African continent.

    At the same time, as I commemorate this event in the Jewish story and the achievements of a Jewish homeland and the State of Israel, I am conscious that this is not paralleled in the perceptions and realities of other communities in the region whose ‘civil and religious rights’ were not to be prejudiced, according to the Balfour letter.

    Therefore, I call upon Israelis and Palestinians, Britain and the United States and indeed the whole international community to work for a just and lasting resolution in which the State of Israel and its Palestinian neighbour will dwell together in mutual respect and security.

    The 8th century BCE Hebrew Biblical prophet Isaiah (19:23) foresaw:

    On that day let there be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

    What is our hope and vision?