Who We Are
In 1949, a year after the establishment of the State of Israel, a group of people, with the encouragement of the British Embassy, set up an organisation the objects of which were ‘to encourage, develop and extend social, cultural and economic relations between the peoples of Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth’. This was considered appropriate and important in view of Britain’s role during the Mandate period and in the years leading up to Independence. Initially the organisation met informally, but in 1953 established a formal Association known as The Ottoman Society. It later changed its name to Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association (IBCA) and in 1980 IBCA was registered as an Amutah (a non-profit organisation in accordance with Israeli law).
In pursuit of its aims, IBCA has, over the years, developed close links with the embassies of Britain and the various members of the Commonwealth. Meetings are held on a regular basis addressed by prominent politicians, diplomats and academics attended by many members of the Diplomatic Corps. This has enabled a dialogue and exchange of views to develop between representatives of Israel and these other countries.
As well as holding regular meetings, IBCA has, for many years, held an annual dinner in November to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Issued on 2nd November 1917, by Lord Arthur Balfour, on behalf of the British Government, the Balfour Declaration is regarded as having been pivotal in enabling the return of the Jews to their homeland, leading to the eventual establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
In ‘An Assessment of the Balfour Declaration’ by Raymond Cannon the author states in the opening line ‘Without the Balfour Declaration there would have been no State of Israel’ and in his closing remarks ‘The historic value of the Balfour Declaration cannot. . . be overstated. The British commitment to establish a Jewish home in Palestine became the inviolable objective throughout the turbulent (first) half (of the 20th) Century . . . and which led ultimately to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948’.
Many prominent people have addressed these dinners including – Chaim Herzog at the Knesset, firstly as Chairperson of IBCA in 1957 and twenty-two years later in 1989 as President of the State of Israel; the British Ambassador, William Squire in 1987, for which occasion the booklet ‘The National Home becomes a State’ was published; the Earl of Balfour (Arthur’s great nephew) in 1989; Yitzhak Rabin, firstly as the Israeli Minister of Defence in 1989 and five years later in 1994 as Prime Minister along with the then British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Other prominent British guest speakers have included Gordon Brown (1995), Martin Gilbert, Lord Woolf, Lord Goldsmith, and William Hague and Boris Johnson while Israeli speakers have included Shimon Peres (1990), Professor Amnon Rubinstein, Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, Tsipi Livni and Yair Lapid.
There have been a number of distinguished Chairpeople of IBCA since its inception, each adding their unique mark. The first Chairperson was Max Seligman, succeeded by Chaim Herzog who went on to become Israel’s Ambassador to the UN and President of the State of Israel, John Furman who expanded the links between the diplomatic and political communities, both in Israel and abroad; Lewis Harris who established the John Furman Scholarship Fund under which nurses were sent from Israel to the Royal Marsden Hospital in England enabling them to obtain advanced training in cancer nursing. Subsequent chairpeople have continued the work and the development of IBCA, pursuing their respective interests and include Michael Fox, Harold Hart, Brenda Katten, Austin Science, Alan Webber and Professor Alex Deutsch. Former Chairperson Brenda Katten is the current Chairperson.
As well as sending nurses to Britain under the John Furman Scholarship Fund, IBCA has sent young Israeli businessmen and women to the UK to work in major British corporations to increase their experience in business management, facilitated a group of student teachers from the David Yellin Teachers’ Training College in Jerusalem to undergo an intensive course at Solihull College in Birmingham, granted scholarships for young Israeli colorectal surgeons to attend advanced training courses in the UK, provided financial support for English Amateur Drama in Israel and the Israeli Debating Society, Sia’h va’Sig, which promotes and teaches the arts of public speaking, oratory, logical thinking and debating in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
More recently IBCA has started organising themed bus trips, in accordance with its aims, to include a trip to the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Memorial Centre and Cemetery in Beersheba, a meeting with the President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, at the President’s House in Jerusalem and in the pipeline, a trip to explore British Mandate Jerusalem.
IBCA is a registered not for profit organization. Its income comes from its membership as well as their guests from the wide range of social, cultural and educational events organized throughout the year. The funds generated also have allowed IBCA to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Britain and its Commonwealth. In furtherance of this aim The John Furman Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to give study/travel grants to representatives of Israeli Industry, Arts, Medicine and Education.
IBCA has always had close ties with the Herzog family as Chaim Herzog was IBCA’s second ever Chair in 1957 and our relationship is just as strong today as it was back then.
The President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog is a supporter and good friend of IBCA. Recently, IBCA was honoured by the President who spoke to 100 IBCA members in his residence in Jerusalem.
Hon. Membership Secretary
Prof. Alex Deutsch
IBCA is a registered Amuta No. 580029700.