Thursday, 9 November 2017

Telfed Celebrates the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration

It never ceases to amaze me how many new pieces of information I can learn about my grandparents or family history. In truth, for Jews, the family history connects with the history of Israel, the history of the Jews and goes all the way back to Avraham and Sarah, the first Jews.

For anyone paying attention to the news, it is now 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and there are a variety of events taking place to commemorate this. A few days ago there was a talk given by Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Here in Israel, Telfed hosted an event to celebrate the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

The event took place in the Arts and Music Centre in Raanana. When my mom noticed who the guest speaker was she became very excited and eager to attend. The guest speaker was Philip Weyers, executive director of the General Smuts Foundation in South Africa and great grandson of General Jan Smuts. Now came a surprise for me, had I known this and it slipped my mind? I'm not sure.

As it turns out, my late grandfather, Prof V.L. Granger was a friend of Janny Smuts, the son of Jan Smuts. His mother, my late great grandmother was friendly with Ouma, the wife of Jan Smuts. Always an opportunity to learn something of interest about one's family. It certainly serves as a reminder as to how important it is to have contact with one's grandparents and to take an interest in learning about their lives. You never know what interesting person was a friend or connection of your grandparent.

Well, equipped with this new insight about my family and their connections, off we traveled to Ra'anana. It's quite different to Jerusalem, for anyone who is sensitive just the energy itself is tangibly different. It was also quite amusing to hear so many with South African accents or speaking the odd word in Afrikaans. I've begun to become accustomed to hearing American accents, Israeli accents. Hearing Afrikaans is a novelty in Jerusalem, and hearing so many speak with South African accents is intriguing.

I was impressed that the Mayor of Ra'ananna, Zev Bielsky was the host. After some introductory speeches, relaxing to the classical music played by a South African Oleh, we had the opportunity to watch a short video taken in Israel around the time of the Balfour Declaration. Yes, there were Jews in Israel (or Palestine as it was called then) prior to WW2.

Finally the main speaker began. He has a wonderful sense of humour and I totally enjoyed hearing information about General Jan Smuts that I had never learned in South African History as it was taught at school. To my amazement and delight, I learned that Jan Smuts was a friend to the Jews. He was a good friend of Chaim Weitzman and had a belief that the Jews belong in Israel. Well he would have called it Palestine as was the name given by the Romans and in use at the time, but I prefer to call our Holy Land Israel.

I learned quite a few details about the Boer War and other aspects of South African history that I had not known before. Why were these interesting facts left out of our classes at school?
When the speeches ended and we began to file out of the theatre, it was fun to meet in person some people I had spoken to on the telephone or corresponded with via email. While most of the guests milled around and enjoyed a biscuit or cup of tea or coffee, we raced off to the bus station to get the last bus back to Jerusalem.

I must say I was grateful to be home in Jerusalem again. Whatever role the Balfour Declaration played in an increase of Jews returning to our land, it is incredible to be a part of the ingathering of the exile.

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