Yad Chaim Weizmann

Time Line

1874
18 Kislev 5635, November 27, 1874: Born in a small village called Motal, in Belarus, far from city life. Half of the village’s residents were Jewish, about 250 families. You can gain a sense of the size of the village from a saying that was popular among the village residents: “When a horse comes into town, its head is at one end of the town while its tail cleans the other end.”

 

1885

Starts attending a Russian high school in the city of Pinsk and first becomes involved in Zionism by collecting money. At the age of eleven, he wrote a letter in Hebrew to his beloved teacher in Motal: “How esteemed, how exalted is the idea expressed by our brothers, the Children of Israel, of establishing a Hovevei Zion society, because by means of this we will be able to save our brethren who are abandoned and oppressed, who have been dispersed to the ends of the earth. The final word is that we are moving to Zion—let us go to Zion!”

1892

Moves to Western Europe where he continues his academic studies. Receives a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

1899

Participates in the Second Zionist Congress in Basel.

1901

Participates in the Conference of Young Zionists and is one of the founders of the Democratic Party, a party whose goal was to promote the cause of taking practical action in Israel, and to conduct cultural activities.

1902

Establishes an office for a Jewish Institution of Higher Learning, which was designed to provide a solution for Jewish students who had been rejected from universities in Eastern Europe.

1903

At the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, he votes against the proposal to settle Jews in Uganda.
In his speech, he states, “If the British Government and the British People are what I think they are, in the end they will make us a better proposal than this one.”

1904

Moves to England and works as a researcher in the Chemistry Department at the University of Manchester.

1906
Marries Vera Chatzman, whom he had met in Switzerland, where she was studying medicine. “Vera and I found our way to each other but slowly, partly because of the seven-year difference in our ages and in our positions, as I was a lecturer and she was a student, but primarily because of differences in our background and approach to life.”
That same year, Dr. Weizmann meets Arthur James Balfour, The former prime minister of UK, and explains to him the Zionist idea. “He asked me, ‘Why are the Jews opposed to the Uganda Plan?’” 
I answered him, “Lord Balfour, suppose that I would offer to you Paris instead of London, would you accept?”
“But,” he responded, “Dr. Weizmann, London is ours.”
“That’s true,” I responded, “but Jerusalem was ours when London was still a swamp.”

 

1907
The birth of his eldest son, Benjamin (Benjy). Becomes famous as a representative of Synthetic Zionism at the Eighth Zionist Congress at The Hague.
Visits the Palestine for the first time. “I traveled by boat from Beirut to Jaffa. My feet stepped on the land that had been, since the days of my childhood, an inseparable part of my thoughts. Finally, I was face-to-face with reality. I came to the firm decision that I should return to Europe and continue to increase the pressure—with double the energies–for urgent, practical work in the Palestine.”

 

1910

Receives British citizenship.

1914

Works, with the outbreak of World War I, to promote the idea of a Jewish national homeland in the Palestine that is under British patronage.

1915
Invents a new method for producing acetone, a solution that was essential for the production of explosive materials.
Moves to London and is appointed as an advisor to the British Admiralty and Ministry of Munitions for the supply of acetone.

 

1916

The birth of his second son, Michael. Manages the British Admiralty’s laboratories in London. Begins a campaign, with the help of friends, to spread the idea of creating a Jewish national homeland in the Palestine under British patronage.
Meets with Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Balfour.

1917

Becomes President of the British Zionist Federation, an organization that was established after Britain conquers the Palestine from Ottoman rule. Conducts negotiations with the British Government which end on November 2nd with the granting of the Balfour Declaration.
And this is the wording of the declaration: “His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

1918
Heads the Zionist Commission for Palestine, a delegation that traveled to the Palestine at the initiative of the British Government with the aim of making recommendations regarding the settlement and development of the country. In a letter to his wife, Vera, he described what he was seeing: “The difference between what you can see today in the settlements, and what it was possible to see when I was first here eleven years ago, is astounding. Today, these  Settlements are filled with life. Real Jews are living here. They are no longer a legend; they are real!”
Meets with Emir Faisal, leader of the Arab Revolt.
“It was a beautiful, moonlit night—with the moonlight of the Palestine. I looked out, from Moav, onto the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the Mountains of Judea, and as I’m standing there I’m suddenly filled with this sense that 3,000 years have vanished. Here I am standing on the same land, with the same mission, just as our forefathers did at the dawn of the history of my people.”
The Emir states that he longs to see Jews and Arabs working together with a common vision. In his opinion, the destiny of both nations is connected to the Middle East; and, against their will, it is dependent on the good will of the great powers. The two sign the Weizmann-Faisal Agreement, which is never implemented.
Lays the cornerstone for Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus, in Jerusalem. In his speech, he says, “What is the significance of the Hebrew University? What will be its role? From where will it draw its students, and what languages will they speak here? At first glance, it might seem like a paradox that a land that has such a small population, a land that still needs everything done in it, a land lacking basic needs such as plows, roads and ports–that in such a land we are establishing a center for spiritual and intellectual development. But the paradox does not exist, as such, if one who knows the soul of the Jew.”

 

1919

Head of the Zionist delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles, which tried to obtain international approval for the Balfour Declaration.

1920

Elected to serve as the President of the World Zionist Organization in the London conference.

1921
Tours the U.S. with Albert Einstein, with the goal of fundraising on behalf of the Zionist enterprise.

 

1925

Participates in a ceremony marking the opening of the Hebrew University, with the participation of Lord Balfour.

1929

Elected President of the expanded Jewish Agency for the Palestine, established in order to involve Western Jews in the Zionist enterprise. “Our ideal was the vision of a new nation, free of the restrictive confines of the ghetto and from the eternal fear of misunderstandings and disturbances, living its life on its land—a nation of upright people, with an awareness of the great historic heritage connected to the Nation of Israel and the earth of the Palestine” (on the day of the establishment of the expanded Jewish Agency, November 8, 1929).
In response to the 1929 Palestine riots, the British Government imposed order and, to calm the Arabs, published a White Paper by Lord Passfield that backtracked from some of the promises that had been made in the Balfour Declaration.

1930

In a letter to Lord Passfield dated October 20, 1930, Weizmann writes, “For the last twelve years, I have stood at the head of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Throughout this entire period, I have tried to work in close harmony with His Majesty’s Government and to base my actions on close cooperation with them. Thus, there is no one who wants to respond to the call to continue cooperation as much as I do, if any basis for this exists.” Weizmann receives the MacDonald Letter, in which the British Government reiterates its commitment to establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people in the Palestine. However, this was not sufficient to restore Weizmann’s position in the Jewish world, which had become critical of his policy of appeasement.

1931

Weizmann is removed from his position as the head of the Zionist movement. He devotes his time to scientific research, as well as fundraising for Zionist projects and working to save Jewish refugees, primarily from Germany.

1933

Appointed chairman of the central office of the agency for settling the Jews of Germany in the Palestine.

1934
Establishes the Daniel Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot.

 

1935

Re-appointed to the position of President of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency at the Nineteenth Zionist Congress in Lucerne, together with the appointment of Ben-Gurion as Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency.

1936

Builds his home in Rehovot next to the Sieff Institute. The house is planned by the well-known Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn. In the wake of the Arab riots, the British Government sends a commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel. Weizmann testifies before the royal commission on December 25, 1936, stating, “When speaking about the Jewish nation, one is speaking about a nation that is a minority everywhere but is not a majority anywhere…It has the spirit of a nation without a body, and it therefore arouses suspicion, and suspicion gives birth to hatred. There must be a place for it in the world—in God’s wide world—in which we can live and express ourselves according to our nature.”
The conclusions of the commission: The division of the Palestine into an Arab state on most of the territory of the Palestine; a Jewish state in the Galilee and the coastal plain; and a British Mandate area that included Jerusalem, with a corridor connecting it to the sea.

1937
At the Twentieth Zionist Congress in Zurich on August 4, 1937, in the wake of the conclusions of the Peel Commission, Weizmann supports the proposal for the partition of the Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. In his speech, he stated, “At this historic moment, allow me to turn to the Arab nation…The Arab nation has a grand tradition. To this nation, we have extended our hands [in peace]. And our hands are still extended to them, even now, but with one condition: Just as we hope that they will overcome this difficult time, returning to the grand traditions of the exalted Arab nation, which is a cultured nation; they must know that we have the right to establish our home in the Palestine, without causing hurt to anyone, but for the sake of assisting ourselves and others. If they will recognize this—our right—we will find the path toward mutual understanding.”

 

1939

The St. James Conference, known as the Round-Table-Conference, takes place in London. MacDonald discusses the moral right of Arabs to self-determination. In May, a White Paper is published that, in effect, can destroy the Zionist dream.
Weizmann harshly condemns the policy that has been adopted by Britain. But with the outbreak of World War II, he promises to provide Britain with all possible assistance through the Jewish population in Israel and around the world.
Works on establishing a Jewish brigade within the British Army.

1942

His son, Michael, a pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force, is declared missing, his plane shot down over the sea.
Participates in the Biltmore Conference in New York, which passes a proposal that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth. Clashes with Ben-Gurion on this topic.

1944

Visits the Palestine in honor of his 70th birthday and is received, on the streets of the Jewish settlement, with appreciation and adoration.

1946
Appears in Jerusalem before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.
In the Twenty-Second Zionist Congress in Basel, he is removed from his position as the leader of the Zionist movement due to a general feeling that he would not be suited to leading a conflict against Britain. In his speech at the Congress, he warns against the use of violence: “I warn you again against taking a ‘shortcut,’ against false prophecies and generalizations that do not match historical facts, but that relate to them as if they are fictional. This is my temperament, and I do not believe in acts of violence…I think that terror is our greatest disaster—from an ethical perspective, from a political perspective, and in terms of establishing our country. I fear that terror will begin to rule the Jewish streets and the Agency will not be able to control it; but, rather, it will overtake the Agency. It is a cancer in the body of the settlement. ‘And you shall destroy the evil in your midst!’ I warn you, do not allow this growth to spread. It is likely to swallow the movement and the settlement, and destroy everything that we have built.”

 

1947

The British Government hands over the entire discussion about the future of the Palestine to the United Nations in the U.S., which establishes the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Weizmann testifies in Jerusalem before the UNSCOP committee, stating, “Independence is not the right only of the Arabs. We Jews have an equal right to it. This gathering is not entitled to decide that the Arabs’ right to an eighth state necessarily nullifies the right of the Jews to have a single, unique, independent, national life.”

Works to promote the acceptance of the Partition Plan in the General Assembly of the U.N., and tries to influence U.S. President Harry Truman, asking him to support the plan and to include the Negev within the Jewish State’s territory. On November 29, 1947, the partition of the Palestine receives approval.

1948
Meets with President Truman to ensure his support of the establishment of the Jewish State.
Elected President of the Provisional State Council of Israel. A telegram that he receives from the Council states, “At this moment of the establishment of the Jewish State, we send our blessings to you, the individual who has done more than any other man living among us, for the sake of its creation. Your steadfastness and assistance has strengthened all of us. We look forward to the day when we see you serving as the head of a State established in peace.”

 

1949

Elected President of the State of Israel. In his opening speech at the Knesset, he states, “We must build a new bridge, connecting science with the human spirit. ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ All my life I have endeavored to make science and research the basis of our national undertaking. But I also know that beyond science, there are lofty values that hold the solution to the ills of mankind, the values of justice and honesty, peace and fraternity.”

On November 2nd, he dedicates the Weizmann Institute of Science, saying, “We live in a pioneering land. We are pioneers in settling desolate areas, in agriculture and in industry. Here, in Rehovot, we are involved in a pioneering act of a special kind: Pioneering in science.”

1952
21 Heshvan 5713, November 9, 1952: Passes away at home, and is buried in the garden on his estate in Rehovot.