The Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland was established in 1899 to campaign for a permanent homeland for the Jewish people. Its work was inspired by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), whose 1895 book, 'Judenstaat', ('The Jewish State') contained his ideas for establishing a Jewish political state. The book was published in English in 1896 and Herzl became the leader of the Zionist movement.

Zionists worked to further the cause by buying land in Palestine, where Jewish settlers could set up farms and begin to establish a community. A variety of Londoners were involved in this work, including people from all social backgrounds, men and women, young and old.

At the centre of British Zionism was the Russian scientist Chaim Weizmann, who taught chemistry at Manchester University and was an active campaigner for the Zionist cause. He was to become the first President of the State of Israel in 1949.

In response to lobbying from Weizmann and others, the government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917. This was a formal statement that Britain supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was under British control at the time. The statement was first made in a letter to Lord Rothschild, who passed on the news to the other members of the Zionist Federation.

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