In the quiet calm of a spring day in April 1920, nestled between the Alpine peaks and azure blue waters of the Ligurian Sea, an event of monumental significance unfolded. The tranquil Italian town of San Remo was home to a conference that would impact the geopolitical landscape and forever alter the destiny of a people. But why, you may ask, was a conference held over a century ago in a small Italian town so vital? Why should we, generations removed and miles apart, find any significance in this moment?
In the aftermath of the devastation of the First World War, the victors convened at San Remo with the intention of determining the precise boundaries of the areas captured by the Allies. As a result, Britian was assigned as mandatory for Palestine and tasked with actualizing the Balfour Declaration, establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. More importantly, it formally recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, marking an unprecedented international acknowledgment of Jews as a nation linked inextricably to the land of Israel.
This acknowledgment, it is crucial to note, finds its roots in the pages of the Bible, reaching back to the earliest chapters of Genesis. In a remarkable display of faith, Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people, heeds the divine call to leave behind all that was familiar and journey to an unnamed land (Genesis 12:3). Abraham journeyed to Canaan, and upon his entry into the land God promised him: “I will assign this land to your offspring” (Genesis 12:7). This covenant, reiterated to his descendants Isaac and Jacob, promised that the Jewish people would always be connected to the land now known as Israel.
In Rabbi Yehuda Amital’s insightful words, “The Holy One made a covenant with him (Abraham) regarding Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel)…the whole Torah comes to teach us how Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) settled in Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel) and then returned to it following a prolonged exile.” Thus, the narrative of the Jewish people is one of a divine promise, exile, and a triumphant return to the promised land.
So, what made the San Remo conference so momentous? It recognized and honored this biblical narrative, affirming the Jewish connection to their ancestral homeland. In doing so, it offered a beacon of hope for Jews worldwide, promising a return to the land that God had covenanted to their forefathers.
In its essence, the San Remo conference of 1920 brought this ancient narrative into the realm of international law. It reaffirmed the right of the Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland after 2,000 years of exile, reflecting the divine promise made to Abraham thousands of years ago. Through the lens of San Remo, we perceive the modern manifestation of the biblical promise.
In a world where the connection between the Jewish people and Israel is often questioned or outright denied, the San Remo conference serves as a powerful reminder of our biblical promise. Every step we take on this land is a testament to a promise made and a promise kept, echoing in the hallways of San Remo and reverberating through the annals of our sacred texts.