SKETCH

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN POL­LARD

IT’S CLEARLY no or­di­nary sim­chah when you bump into John Kerry com­ing out of the loos. Then again, I’ve never be­fore been at a din­ner where the Bri­tish and Is­raeli prime min­is­ters min­gled with the likes of Si­mon Schama and the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury.

But you only get to cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion once, so it was fit­ting that, on the an­niver­sary it­self, Lord Roth­schild, (whose great un­cle Wal­ter, the sec­ond Lord Roth­schild, was the re­cip­i­ent of Arthur Bal­four’s let­ter) should host a din­ner in its honour.

“Din­ner” hardly does jus­tice to the oc­ca­sion. Last Thurs­day, Lan­caster House in St James’s played host to A place set­ting amid the grandeur

what felt like a hy­brid sim­chah-cum­state ban­quet. It was, after all, an evening at which Is­rael — and our role in its cre­ation — was both hon­oured and cel­e­brated.

The cast list (the proper phrase might be “guest list” but it felt like be­ing in some sort of ridicu­lously glam­orous film) was a mix of the great and the good of Bri­tish Jewry and some lead­ing friends and sup­port­ers of Is­rael — such as Tony Blair and Alexan­der Downer, the for­mer Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter. De­scen­dants of some of the key play­ers in 1917 were also present, from the cur­rent Earl of Bal­four to Christo­pher Sykes (grand­son of Sir Mark) and Robert Lloyd Ge­orge.

Lan­caster House is both im­pos­ing and or­nate and, as we en­tered the din­ing room, there were gasps at the splen­dour of the set­ting.

It was matched by a deeply emo­tional speech by Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, who told of his per­sonal con­nec­tion. John Henry Pat­ter­son, leg­endary com­man­der of the Jewish Le­gion in the First World War, was god­fa­ther to Yonathan, Bibi’s late brother. Two years ago, his re­mains were taken to Is­rael to lie with those Jewish fight­ers he so revered.

Theresa May also swat­ted away the idea we should sim­ply mark, rather than cel­e­brate, the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion — and the lu­di­crous no­tion that we should apol­o­gise for it.

One hun­dred years on, Is­rael is a re­al­ity. Now for the next cen­tury.

PHOTO: BLAKE EZRA PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Im­pos­ing scene: the ban­quet at Lan­caster House in Lon­don, where Theresa May gave a speech

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