Students at Rambam Mesivta High School were prepared for New York Times best-selling author Edwin Black. When Black asked questions during his hour-and-a-half presentation on the Balfour Declaration, the students had the answers.
Black kicked off a three-week, 12-city cross-country trek commemorating the 100th anniversary of the declaration, a 67-word letter written by British Foreign Minister James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, and sent to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland on Nov. 2, 1917.
The correspondence included these powerful words: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
These words were echoed in the San Remo Agreement, a post-World War I pact among international leaders, in the League of Nation’s Mandate for Palestine, and in the United Nations’ charter.
Yet, Black pointed out that the Balfour Declaration “has been mis-portrayed, maligned and misquoted so massively that it calls out for an honest, independent look.”
“Jews were the indigenous people of Israel,” Black said. “There is only one way to usurp the future of the Jewish people. That is to abduct their history and refract it into something it is not.”
Black said that he uncovers facts in context. “How the United States teaches history is deliberate sabotage,” said Eve Jones, Black’s chief researcher.
After meeting with students from the school’s book club, where he told them that “writing is rewriting,” Black launched into his presentation.
His talk took his audience on a historical journey from ancient times to the contemporary era. He pointed to 1964 as a turning point for Israel after the state had been inexistence for barely 16 years. Arabs, who had been nomads, became recognized as Palestinians, usurping the original Palestinians — the Jews.
Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rambam’s dean, called having Black speak at the Lawrence school an “amazing opportunity.”
“The better information you get the more informed you are,” Rabbi Friedman told his students. “You need to be armed with the facts to what the Balfour Declaration is and the ongoing effects.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, sent a message about Black’s appearance, not his first at Rambam, which was read by Assistant Principal Hillel Goldman.
Black’s tour took him to the House of Representatives on Oct. 23 and goes to Florida, California before concluding at the in Potomac, Maryland, on Nov. 9.