On Nov. 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour, Britain’s mustachioed foreign secretary, signed his name at the bottom of a short typed letter to a shy banker-turned-zoologist by the name of Lionel Walter Rothschild. “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” it read. In the century since that fateful day, those words have reverberated around the world. They’ve changed reality, created national dreams, squashed political aspirations. And they’ve been scrutinized, analyzed, and debated from every possible angle. The Balfour Declaration, for better or worse, is still very much with us. In a special commemorative episode, Israel Story sets out on a less-than-intuitive journey in Balfour’s footsteps.
In the prologue, “His Majesty’s Government View With Favour,” Mishy Harman tries to learn more about the famous declaration and its legacy by talking to three Israelis who have spent a lot of time thinking about Balfour: Anita Shapira, Mahmoud Yazbak, and Nirit Shalev Khalifa.
Act 1: “Meet the Balfours.” In London’s upper-crust circles, there are some people for whom Balfour is more than just a historical figure. He’s a source of pride, a daily presence—and a relative. Danna Harman seeks out his living relatives to get a sense of what it’s like to be a Balfour today.
Act 2: “And the Lord Came Over With His Car.” Tucked away between Nazareth and Afula in the heart of the Jezreel Valley, Moshav Balfouria—named for Lord Balfour—feels like a time capsule: Its 46 agricultural farms haven’t changed much since 1922, when the village was established, and Balfour still looms large. Speaking to some of the moshav’s old-timers, Zev Levi discovers a quickly vanishing Israel.
Act 3: “What’s in a Name?” In April 1948, a few weeks before the establishment of the State of Israel, Ezra and Saida Chakak, a Jewish couple from Baghdad, gave birth to identical twin boys. A zealous Zionist, the dad decided that this was an excellent opportunity to honor the movement’s towering figures. Almost 70 years later, Hannah Barg meets up with the twins and finds out what it’s like to live your life as a walking symbol.
Act 4: “Not Your Typical Landlady.” When David Harman, Mishy’s father, was 18 years old, he returned to Israel to enlist in the IDF. Since the rest of his family was stationed abroad, he needed to find a place to rent. Lucky for him, a chance meeting with Golda Meir in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood landed him not only a room on Balfour Street but also an opportunity to witness history in the making.
The original music in this episode was composed and performed by Ari Wenig and Yochai Maital, and features tracks by the late Nachum Heiman. The final song, “Balfour,” is by Itay Pearl.The episode was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum.