Remembering - Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir
Occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration
Alfassa / November 16, 2007
November 2nd, 1918, the very first anniversary of the Balfour
Declaration, the Chief Rabbi of Salonika and future
first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Haham Jacob Meir, declared, this
date is henceforth a fete day (celebration), for it was
on this day that Israel was recognized as a NATION among the
other nations. His declaration was met by official
representatives of England, America, France, Italy and Greece
with great applause, and he was congratulated for his statement.
was during Jacob Meirs term as chief rabbi in the holy
land, that Sir Herbert Samuel, a Jew, had been appointed as
the first British High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920.
Under his direction, thousands of Jewish immigrants settled
in the land. In each of the years between 1920 and 1923, about
8,000 Jews entered Palestine. In 1924 the number jumped to 13,000
and the following year to more than 33,000. Sadly, many Jewish
people came to Palestine because they could go nowhere else,
as America closed its doors to mass immigration in 1924. In
1920, Rabbi Meir was appointed by Samuel to be head of the Spanish
Jewish Community of Palestine (from which all chief Sephardic
rabbis were chosen) and soon after was honored with the Commander
of the Order of the British Empire award for service to
Jacob Meir was a peace maker; he was a profound student of Talmud,
a patient and astute scholar, fluent in Hebrew as well as five
other languages. He was a student of modern Hebrew letters,
and enjoyed a reputation as one of Jerusalems great rabbis.
A demonstration of his passion for harmony, is his 1936 letter
called an Appeal for Friendliness. This was
a call to Muslims of Jerusalem to make peace, he wrote:
Moslem brethren in places near and far
I am eighty years
of age today, and Providence has privileged me with the duty
of serving the Faith of Israel for over sixty years
my path of life I have met Heads of the Moslem and Christian
Churches, and they have all expressed their appreciation and
sympathy to the People of Israel and His Holy Writ, upon which
rest the foundations of the faiths of the world. I recall
the wise words that I have heard from Caliphs and Sultans,
rulers of Turkey, who have had an unbounded admiration for
the People of Israel, who are truthful in all their ways
many generations past, we Moslems and Jews, have lived as
brethren, as well in Palestine, as in other countries, and
have ever extended one to the other a truly helping hand.
In the Holy City of Jerusalem, in Baghdad, in Granada, in
Algiers, in Damascus, in Medina, in Fes, Tunis, in Cairo,
and in all other Moslem countries
are all the sons of Abraham and Isaac, all the sons of the
same Father in Heaven and we have common usages, which it
is the duty of all of us to live up to....
I was born in Jerusalem, and all the leaders and heads of
the Moslems in Palestine and in adjacent countries know me
personally and appreciate that truth has ever been the torch
by which I was guided. To all of those of my Moslem brethren
who appeared before my religious court I meted out justice.
My attitude to all sons of the Arab race, Christians and Moslems
alike, has always been one of respect and true friendliness.
Like the Prophet Samuel I can truly affirm today in the presence
of the Almighty: Whose Ox have I and my people taken?
Or whose Ass have I taken? Or whom, have I defrauded.
Or whom, have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I taken a
ransom to blind mine eyes therewith?.
Therefore, I beg you to pay your attention to the following.
The Almighty God, Senior of all nations, wanted that the people
of Israel should return to its Holy Land as it is ordered
in our Holy Torah, in which you also believe, so who can oppose
the volition of God? I deem it unnecessary to repeat our contention
that any intention to prejudice the rights of the people of
this country is far from our minds.
Therefore, I appeal to you, my brethren, why cause any harm?
Clear your hearts of all hatred and animosity. I affirm before
the Almighty that no Jew has any design on your Holy Places.
Come and rally to the service of God Almighty. Learn His commands
and abide by His ways, and thereupon will be fulfilled the
words of the Prophet: Nation shall not lift up sword
against Nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. And
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears
into pruning hooks, and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.
So help us God.
against Jews was a common occurrence during Jacob Meirs
tenure. Even though he was a man of peace he was not a man to
back down and he stood for the ideals and interests of the Jewish
people. It is remembered that when testifying to the League
of Nations Wailing Wall Commission of 1930, he declared,
The Bible is our kushan (deed) to this last relic
of our Temple. Even with the rabbis emotional statement, the
British commission concluded that the Muslims had absolute ownership
of the Wall. Yet, they felt the Jews had the uncontested right
to worship and to place seats in the narrow street, though not
to blow the shofar there. The Arabs objected, and the Jews agreed,
except for the last point, considering it a humiliation. In
response, each year, proud Jewish youths would blow the shofar
near the wall at the termination of Yom Kippur, which would
always lead to the intervention of the British police who enforced
the law against the blowing of the shofar.
Rabbi Jacob Meir died on May 26, 1939, he was 83 years old,
his family was at his bedside when he passed. Over 10,000 Jewish
residents of Jerusalem, representing all sections of the population
took part in the funeral of the rabbi. The blue and white colors
hung half staff from the offices of all Jewish public institutions.
Many orations were made for the late Meir. Rabbi Yosef Levy
declared it was a day of sorrow for all, that the passing of
Jacob Meir had robbed Israel if a great leader and scholar,
one of the last of the Knesseth Gedola (Great Assembly).
Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Herzog said it was more than difficult
for him to adequately mourn the saintly and scholarly man, whose
efforts for unity had been so strenuous and successful. The
loss was exacerbated for the Betrayal Paper
was then hanging over Jewry. Herzog went on to ask that the
spirit of Rabbi Meir would intercede for mercy before the Throne
of the Almighty to annul the evil decree This decree
that Herzog was speaking about was the British White
Paper. This was the notorius document in which demonstrated
the British had reneged on the earlier Balfour Declaration and
announced that creating a Jewish state was no longer a British
objective. Thus, it was their opinion, that only a divided Palestine
could permanently settle the ongoing Jewish-Arab violence, and
their first implementation of this new agenda was to severely
restrict the number of Jewish refugees desiring to emigrate
to Palestine. Shamefully, history demonstrates that during this
period, Arab attacks on Jews increased, often under the eye
of the British.
Jacob Meir ZS"L
First Chief Rabbi of Israel