Young leaders from Arab world decry Holocaust atrocities, citing event as the ‘untold story of the Middle East’
By NOA AMOUYAL
Sharaka, an NGO comprised of young Israeli and Gulf leaders, unveiled a five-point plan to introduce comprehensive Holocaust education in the Arab world during a unique webinar honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Arsen Ostrovsky, Pro-Israel advocate and Sharaka board member, shared the organization’s plan to eliminate Holocaust denial and anti-Israel deligitimization in the Arab world, saying the plan will consist of advancing Holocaust awareness in the Middle East; facilitating interfaith dialouge between Jews and Muslims; promoting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism; combating Jew hatred and rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
"We, the members of Sharaka, from across the Middle East and North Africa, take the words ‘Never Again’ as sacrosanct, and strive to never remain silent or indifferent in the face of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” Sharaka board members said in a statement. “We must, and we shall, continue to learn and share the lessons of the Holocaust, in order to create a better future for all, free of prejudice, intolerance and extremism."
The webinar, which featured remarks by President Reuven Rivlin and Holocaust survivor Vera Kriegel left many of the some hundred attendees in tears after hearing her harrowing story of survival.
“This pandemic has closed borders and distanced us but it has also reminded us of our shared humanity and the need to work together,” Rivlin said of the event which gathered attendees from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and even Pakistan. “Unfortunately, Coronavirus has given rise to more anti-semitic conspiracy theories and we have continued to see attacks against synagogues and Jewish institutions.”
The president said he was very “moved” to see Jews, Muslims, Christians and Jews coming together in the joint mission to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten.
Kriegel, too, was equally emotional by the outpouring of support she received after recounting being held captive in Auschwitz and used as part of Dr. Joseph Menegele’s diabolical experiments.
“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,” she said.
“I’m so overjoyed, so happy, so moved, so excited. I embrace all of you. You’re in my heart. I’m so happy you want to know everything from the past. It’s so very important. I feel privileged to be part of this historic event and share my story with you,” Kriegel added. “Peace is not just between people, it means love and to be loved.”
After Kriegel concluded her remarks, Ostrovsky commented, “Just as Vera promised her mother that ‘she could count on her to go to the highest peak of the highest mountain to tell the story of what the Nazis did,’ that she could count on us - on all of us - to tell her story, to keep her memory alive and fight for a better future, free of hatred, Antisemitism and intolerance.”
The Zoom meeting was inspired by a delegation of Shakara members from the Arab world who visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last month.
“What we’ve seen in Yad Vashem is the truth. People say the Holocaust is not a true event, that remark is a crime in human history against Jews and is a result of hate and discrimination,” Sharaka board member Dr. Majid Al Sarrah said.
On Tuesday, Ostrovsky announced on Facebook that the organization’s next step is hosting the first ever Arab-Gulf delegation to Auschwitz in February.