International Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated together by young Israeli, Gulf and Arab leaders this week in the Middle East’s first such event.
Jewish Auschwitz survivor Vera Kriegel spoke of her experience at the hands of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to participants from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, following their visit to Yad Vashem last month.
The online event, organised by The Gulf-Israel Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (Sharaka), was addressed by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who said it was “very moving” to see young people of all religions from across the region working together.
“We are bringing together Holocaust survivors with young Israeli and Gulf leaders, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze, to say ‘never again’,” he said.
“This pandemic has closed borders and distanced us but it has also reminded us of our shared humanity and the need to work together… Unfortunately, coronavirus has given rise to more antisemitic conspiracy theories and we have continued to see attacks against synagogues and Jewish institutions.”
More than 100 participants from across the world sent excited messages to each other throughout the Zoom call, for instance telling each other how to write ‘never again’ in Hebrew and Arabic.
Sharaka used the opportunity to push an action plan that included “promoting” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which includes several working examples relating to Israel, as well as “countering” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Pushing back tears, Kriegel told the young Arab leaders: “I’m so overjoyed, so happy, so moved, so everything, and I embrace all of you, I am so happy that you want to know everything from the past. It’s so very important.”
Beginning with the Arab greeting ‘Salaam Alaikum’ she said: “I was a guinea pig for the Satanic Dr Mengele. My self-esteem, my pride, my identity, all was taken away from me. I became a total nothing. I became a number, tattooed on my arm – A26946. This was my identity.”
Amjad Taha, co-founder of Sharaka, told Vera she had a new home in Bahrain “and in the heart of every peace lover”.
He suggested that countries including his own, UAE and Bahrain include the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the school curriculum. “From a young age to graduation they should be taught about the Holocaust and ways to counter antisemitism.”
Majid Al-Sarrah from the UAE said: “We live together, we stand together, and together we will build a world free of antisemitism and hate.” Mashael Al-Shemeri from Bahrain said: “I would like to say to all Jews and the people of Israel – you are not alone anymore.”
Najat Al-Saeed from Saudi Arabia said: “We must educate young generations about the full horrors of the Holocaust, including by ensuring that the Holocaust is taught in schools in the Abraham Accords countries, and special envoys are appointed for preserving Holocaust remembrance.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.