Balfour and the Declaration

Israel’s deputy ambassador has raised the possibility of a landmark exhibition in Israel featuring the original Balfour Declaration to mark the historic document’s centenary in 2017, writes Jenni Frazer.

It would see the precious document, which is normally housed at the British Library, temporarily relocated outside the UK for the first time.

At a private viewing in the library on Tuesday before the Balfour Day lecture, Eitan Na’eh spoke of the possibility of a curated exhibition in Jerusalem which would include the Declaration – a letter to Lord Rothschild from Arthur Balfour, then the Foreign Secretary – and a previously drafted letter sent to various interested parties.

The recipients of the draft letter included Israel’s future first president, Chaim Weizmann, and the then British Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz. Na’eh said that the highlight of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to the UK had been a viewing of the Declaration, which had been “emotional and brought tears to his eyes”.

The British Library has a facsimile of the Declaration, which it makes available to researchers, but keeps the Declaration itself in extremely secure conditions.

It does lend materials to other academic institutions and archives, but any decision to send the Balfour Declaration abroad for an exhibition is likely to have to be made in consultation with the UK government.