Anyone researching the origins and impact of the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 will come across references to its inclusion in international law through the San Remo Declaration and the British Mandate for Palestine.
Perhaps less well-known is the impact the Declaration had on ordinary Jewish men and women living under persecution in Eastern Europe and Russia. Political Zionism, as launched by Theodor Herzl, was already some 20 years old, but as yet showing no signs of producing the longed-for homeland outlined by Herzl in “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State).
Imagine, therefore, what hope must have been sparked in Jewish hearts on hearing that one of the world’s great powers was in favour of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in ancient Israel’s (approximate) borders.
News of the progress of the Zionist movement spread through the Stetls and cities of Russia through newspapers and local appearances by Zionist propaganda speakers. But the impact of the Balfour Declaration just by itself was huge. This article, “Sokolka, Russia And The Balfour Declaration” on the “Israel Forever Foundation” website zooms in on one town in Russia (probably in modern Poland), and what happened when the issuing of the Balfour Declaration became known.
For these persecuted people, longing for the realisation of their dreams, perhaps Herzl’s declaration of a state within 50 years could actually happen after so many centuries of exile!