Original 1917 Balfour Declaration to be displayed in Israel

Document marking critical achievement for the Zionist movement, which has never left British soil, to be briefly exhibited in refurbished Independence House two years from now

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Photo of a draft of Lord Balfour's declaration document from 1917 (photo credit: Prime Minister's Office official photo)
Photo of a draft of Lord Balfour's declaration document from 1917 (photo credit: Prime Minister's Office official photo)

The original document setting out Lord Arthur James Balfour’s 1917 declaration, stating Britain’s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, will be placed on display at the Independence House in Tel Aviv for a limited period in two years’ time. The document, which is nearly one hundred years old, currently resides at the British National Library and has never left British soil.

The Balfour Declaration represented the Zionist movement’s first major political achievement, as the British Cabinet ultimately confirmed and backed Zionist aspirations for a Jewish state.

The idea to present the document in Israel comes as part of an ongoing project to refurbish the museum at the Independence House, where David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The redeveloped museum is to be inaugurated in two years, and agreement in principle has been reached to display the original Balfour Declaration at that time, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Sunday.

“Presenting the Balfour Declaration at the building where Israel’s independence and the forming of a Jewish state was declared will bring a historical cycle to a close,” outgoing Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser said.

Hauser, along with the Heritage program manager at the Prime Minister’s Office, Reuven Pinsky, recently visited London, where they were accompanied by Lord Jacob Rothschild, who helped them contact the British National Library. The two met with National Library managers and secured their agreement in principle to transfer the Balfour Declaration to Israel for a limited period of display.

Hauser and Pinsky were also granted access to the National Library’s archive, which contained much rare historical material, including original letters that were part of the vast international correspondence that preceded the declaration.

Some of that historical material will accompany the Balfour declaration in its Tel Aviv showing.

“We will do our best to give the citizens of Israel an opportunity to witness a piece of history that changed the reality for us all,” Hauser said. “The Balfour Declaration is one of the most beautiful and rare proofs that not only do acts have meaning; documents have meaning too.”

The refurbished museum will also feature the original copy of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and Lord Balfour’s writing desk.

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