By Carol Rushton
Those of us who believe strongly that the modern State of Israel is a direct fulfillment of end-times Bible prophecy have heard of the Balfour Declaration. However, most Christians know nothing about or have even heard of the Jew who played a critical role in bringing about the Balfour Declaration and Israel’s rebirth as a nation in the 20th Century, Chaim Weizmann.
As was the case with so many 18th and 19th Century Jews, Chaim Weizmann was born in Russia in 1874. Although his family was poor and had to support 15 children, Weizmann’s parents were determined to give their offspring the best education they could afford. Most of the children went on to become doctors, engineers, scientists, and teachers.
Weizmann was interested in science from an early age and studied biochemistry in Germany, earning a doctorate in science in Switzerland. While in Switzerland, Weizmann became involved in the new Zionist movement started by Theodore Herzl which would translate into a political career later in life.
Weizmann’s talent in bio and organic chemistry led to his inventing numerous chemical compounds and holding 110 patents, some of which he sold to other countries. But one discovery above all was to change the course of his life and history forever.
After marrying, Weizmann moved to England in 1904 when he was offered a position as a science professor at the University of Manchester. It was a fortuitous choice.
During World War I, the allies fighting Germany, including England, were using cordite, a smokeless propellant, to replace gunpowder used for hundreds of years. The advantage of cordite was that it would still propel a bullet or shell, as did regular gunpowder, but it prolonged the life of the gun by not destroying the barrel.
Acetone was a vital ingredient in the making of cordite. Prior to 1914, England had imported most of its acetone from Germany. After the outbreak of the war, this of course was no longer possible. The United States didn’t have large supplies of acetone. What was England going to do?
Enter Chaim Weizmann. In 1915, Weizmann discovered he could produce acetone through the fermentation of starch with the aid of bacteria, to put it as simply as possible. When First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill caught wind of this, he made sure this new way of producing acetone synthetically – known to this day as the “Weizmann Process” – was used to help England and her allies. Weizmann’s invention was of strategic assistance to the allied powers in World War I.
According to the Weizmann Institute’s website, “This rapid wartime expansion . . . from laboratory to industrial scale . . . set a precedent for the rapid expansion of penicillin production during World War II and for the wide scope of applied biotechnological processes that came afterward” (https://www.weizmann.ac.il/WeizmannCompass/sections/people-behind-the-science/chaim-weizmann’s-acetone-patent-turns-100).
The British government felt that it owed such a great debt to Weizmann for his contribution in World War I, UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour asked Dr. Weizmann what he would like in return. Weizmann is said to have replied, “There is only one thing I want: a national home for my people.” The rest, as they say, is history.
November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
His Majesty’s Government view(s) with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist federation.
Arthur James Balfour
In most cases, no more would have been heard of Weizmann, since bringing about the Balfour Declaration would have been enough for most people. But not Weizmann. He was just getting started. Below are just a few of his achievements after 1917:
1918: Appointed head of the Zionist Commission by the British Government
1918: Laid the foundation stone for Hebrew University in Jerusalem and raised funds for the university which opened in 1925
1920: President of the World Zionist Organization
1929: President of the Jewish Agency
1934: Helped to establish the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel
1948: Chairman of the Provisional State Council of Israel
1949: First President of the State of Israel
Although Weizmann had great success in his professional life, his private life was marked by tragedy. The Weizmann’s had two sons. The younger son, Michael Weizmann, was serving in the British Royal Air Force in World War II when his plane was shot down in 1942 off the coast of France. His body was never found. The oldest son, Benjamin, was an anti-aircraft gunner during the war. He suffered a mental breakdown, which according the Jewish Virtual Library, he never fully recovered from. He eventually became a dairy farmer in Ireland.
Weizmann died on November 9, 1952, and was buried in the garden on his property in Rehovot, Israel as per his wishes. Weizmann’s house and property is now officially a part of the Weizmann Institute.