AJC eBook: Israel’s Triple Anniversary - Page 4

2 1917: The Balfour Declaration The leaders of the British government that issued the Balfour Declaration had grown up reading the Bible—including the part they called the Old Testament. The declaration’s author, Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour, and its champion, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, knew that the Hebrew Bible was centrally concerned with the Jewish people’s connection to its Holy Land, a fact also known to just about every other literate Christian and Jew. They were familiar with the verses: “And the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1). Abram’s destination was Canaan, the biblical term for Palestine/Israel. “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will assign this land to your offspring’” (12:7). The promise was repeated to his son Isaac (26:3) and his grandson Jacob (35:12). When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God appeared to Moses and promised to free the slaves, declaring He would “bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession” (Exodus 6:8). After 40 years of wandering the desert, the Israelites entered the promised land under Joshua, Moses’ successor. Around the year 1,000 BCE they established a monarchy there with a Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Two generations later the kingdom split into northern and southern states. The former was conquered by Assyria in 722 BCE and the latter by Babylonia in 586 BCE. The Israelites were exiled in both cases, but while the northerners (the “Ten Lost Tribes”) disappeared, the Babylonian exiles were allowed to return to their land when the Persians defeated the Babylonian Empire.