Balfour Declaration – Bolshevik Revolution: 100 Years

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In emergency drills, similar to school fire drills, a generation of Americans grew up learning how to hide under their school desks in event of a Russian nuclear attack. Of course, with benefit of hindsight, we know the absurdity of it all.

On November 11, 1918,  World War I officially came to an end.

Remembrance Day or Armistice Day has been celebrated around the world this weekend. When I hear the words Armistice Day, I think of when we lived in Australia. By 11/11 at 11:00, red poppies had popped out everywhere and were on almost every lapel to honor those fallen in far away wars.

After terrible losses, the turning point for the British in World War I was the charge of the Light Horsemen in Beer Sheva. At the end of October 1917, the Australian led cavalry campaign defeated the Ottoman hold in the Old City that was Beer Sheva a century ago.

With the letter called the Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917, became an important date in history.  This year there seem to be a countless number of 100 year events.

But, in early November 1917, there was another extremely important historical turning point, the Bolshevik or October Revolution.  The rise of the Soviet Union, Socialists and Communists were the result of this Russian Revolution. 

Down with the Czar and royalty. Lenin and socialism were the new facts on the ground.

At Israel National Library signing of agreement for Gunzburg collection digital access
RJstreets for Israellycool

The Jewish Gunzburg family were ennobled in the 19th century. David Gunzburg was born into the wealthy and influential family of communal leaders and had one of the most extensive collections of Judaica in the world. Their private family collection was “nationalized” or seized and held for 100 years. The Gunzburg family and Jewish world lost one of the most valuable sources of Jewish manuscripts and more. Scholars over the century yearned for access to the unique manuscripts, some going back to 15th century, locked away in library storage in the former Soviet Union.

So the significance this week at the Israel National Library, when after a century access is finally to happen.

Head of the Russian State Library in Moscow Dr. Vladimir Ivanovich Gnezdilov spoke at the Israel National Library signing agreement. Under the sponsorship of the Peri Foundation, 2000 Gunzburg pieces are to digitized in Moscow and made available to public through the Israel National Library.

Israel National Library and Russian Library heads with Ziyavudin Magonedov of Peri Foundation to pay for digitization of Gunzburg Library

Signing the agreement with Gnezdilov, (from right) is financial sponsor Ziyavudin Magonedov, and leaders of the Israel National Library.

AP covered the event, which was picked up by the NYTimes. Magonedov, they noted is a Russian tycoon and philanthropist and Muslim.

Before the signing at the Givat Ram Campus of Hebrew University, where the library is presently located, the Ambassador from Russia spoke in Russian and Lord Jacob Rothschild gave his remarks in English. For the Israelis, Hebrew was the language used for their presentations. Translation headsets were provided.

MK Zeev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environment, was one of the few present fluent in all three languages. Elkin, born in Kharkiv (now Ukraine), made aliyah in 1990, and was a Hebrew University graduate student in Medieval Jewish Studies.

Israel National Library signing event of Gunzburg collection agreement Israel and Russia

A significant moment for Elkin, to stand and speak before the signing and gala dinner.

The Gunzburg Collection is to stay in Moscow for now. But after a century, the digital copies finally offer an opening, a bit of light from inside those sealed Russian library doors.

Another 100 year event, another historic moment.

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I lived in the United States, Canada and Australia before moving to Israel in the midst of the Second Lebanon War. For the last nine years, walking the streets of Jerusalem, the scenes I saw every day did not resemble the ones familiar in the Western media. Now I try to share those positive images with the world, what is really happening in Jerusalem, Israel, The Real Jerusalem Streets

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