Jewish students from the UK on tour in Israel have wound their way through the iconic Weizmann House, solving problems and learning history at the same time.
The Weizmann name will be familiar to many. Jewish chemist and early Zionist, Chaim Weizmann, who was born in Russia in 1874, came to England in 1905 and was a lecturer at the University of Manchester until the First World War broke out in 1914.
The conflict soon saw Britain fall short of acetone, a solvent used in making cordite, an essential naval explosive.
Winston Churchill, then in charge of Britain’s Navy, turned to Weizmann. The biochemist worked out the bacterialogy, got his grain and set about fermenting, brewing and distilling, provided Churchill with his supplies.
Weizmann’s science fed the war effort and he was rewarded for his efforts when, on 2 November 1917, prompted by prime minister Lloyd George, the foreign secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild urging British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The rest, as they say, is history.
This summer’s tour groups, including Noam and Bnei Akiva, have been seeing how the Weizmann House has “special historic significance”, as this year celebrates the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Weizmann, who later became Israel’s first president, played such a central role.
On campus at the Weizmann Institute, Jewish youngsters now invade his former house, recently reopened after an extensive restoration project, to find the connection between science, Weizmann, Balfour and the establishment of the State of Israel.
The tours have tested the brainpower of up to 600 Jewish students, who must use curiosity and knowledge in an interactive race built on logic, team work and creative thinking.
Organisers said the kids “have been solving riddles, assignments, and navigating with a specially-designed app to uncover the events, decisions, key figures and historic patent which ultimately led to the establishment of the State of Israel”.