The Balfour Declaration: 67 Words that Changed the World

In a bizarre twist of history, the humble chestnut played a big role in the ultimate creation of the State of Israel. To understand why, Noam Weissman examines the curious origins of the Balfour Declaration and asks why the 67-word letter from a British foreign minister continues to get people riled up more than 100 years after it was published.

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. What document was the first major international recognition of the right to a Jewish home in the Jewish nation’s ancestral homeland?
    • Sykes-Picot Agreement
    • UN Partition Plan
    • Balfour Declaration
    • San Remo Agreement
  2. True or false? The Balfour Declaration was partly influenced by British desire for Jewish support during World War I and not Zionism.
    • True
    • False
  3. The Balfour Declaration:
    • Clearly called for a Jewish state
    • Was vaguely worded
    • Dismantled the concept of Jewish statehood
    • Called for an Arab state in Palestine
  4. To whom did Lord Balfour write his famous letter?
    • Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild 
    • Theodor Herzl
    • David Ben-Gurion
    • Prime Minister David Lloyd George
  1. Given the ambiguities within the Balfour Declaration, do you think the ambiguity was intentional? If so, why do you think it was ambiguous?
  2. One of the important features of the Balfour Declaration is that it was the first time an international superpower and authority gave formal support to establishing a Jewish home in almost 2,000 years. In your opinion, should the Balfour Declaration continue to matter now, more than 100 years later?
  3. In considering the history of Israel, what ultimately put Israel on the map: Zionist visionaries and activists, or diplomatic, international support? Is it a combination, or one more than the other?
  4. Watch this clip of Haim Savistky. Imagine you were a young adult in 1917. How do you think you would have felt upon hearing the Balfour Declaration? Describe the emotions you would feel when hearing that this declaration was made.
  5. Ben-Gurion stated 20 years after the declaration: “I say on behalf of the Jews that the Bible is our mandate, the Bible, which was written by us, in our own language, in Hebrew, in this very country. That is our mandate. It is only recognition of this right, which was expressed in the Balfour Declaration.” Do you agree with Ben-Gurion? Explain. Is the right to a Jewish state more due to international law or the Jewish people’s history and Biblical rights?
  1. Play our Balfour Declaration Kahoot!
  2. Lead a podcast listening party. Download our PDF Guide.

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