Among the hundreds of Holocaust Memorial Day events marked worldwide, one of the most significant was a groundbreaking webinar held with the participation of young people from Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain.
Marking the historic first was the newly appointed Israeli ambassador to the UAE, Eitan Na’eh, the former deputy head of mission at Israel’s embassy in London.
Mr Na’eh, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, spoke emotionally of his mother’s experiences as a six-year-old child in wartime Holland. It was one of his first public appearances since being appointed to lead the embassy in the Emirates, and he said he was “very excited” to see that that the event was attended online by young people from Israel to Iraq.
The event was jointly organised by two groups: Israel-Is, and Together For Each Other, both of which have been busy setting up networking opportunities in the five months since the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain.
Hosted, in Arabic and English, by Together For Each Other’s chief executive Yosef Haddad, the event featured testimony about her father’s Holocaust experience in Italy by an Arabic-speaking Israeli teacher, together with music from Arab-Israeli singers. Young Arab bloggers and influencers spoke about learning about the Holocaust and pledged to uphold “Never Again” as their commitment to the continuing fight against genocide and racism.
Israel’s former deputy prime minister and one time Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky, was a special guest at the event. He recalled that his playground in his hometown of Donetsk, in the former Soviet Union, was very close to a grave pit in which 75,000 Jews had been murdered. “We knew nothing about it”, he said, “because the Soviet Union wanted to erase the Holocaust, because it hated nationalism and religion”. He told the nearly 100 online participants that there were new opportunities opening up between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and commanded the organisers for helping to stage the first such Holocaust remembrance event.
Eyal Biram, CEO of Israel-Is, said: “We are excited to have held a historic Holocaust remembrance event with the Gulf states, in which, in addition to the local participants, Jewish and Arab Israelis also took part”.
Yosef Haddad said: “After working to make the issue of Holocaust remembrance accessible to Arab society in Israel, we are very excited to do the same for the entire Arab world. We need to learn about the Holocaust, remember and connect to human messages, and swear never again.”
During the ceremony, a new short film featuring Robert Rinder by award-winning British filmmaker Malcolm Green was played before the latter addressed the audience.
Eitan Na’eh’s tweet in Arabic about attending the historic Holocaust remembrance event:
شاركت في اجتماع استثنائي وتاريخي حضره شباب من إسرائيل والإمارات والبحرين لمناقشة موضوع الهولوكوست. استمعنا إلى شهادة إحدى الناجيات بالعربية. كانت الردود مؤثرة ومثيرة للاهتمام من جانب الشباب الذين لم يكن هذا لقاءً سهلاً بالنسبة لهم بسبب أهوال المحرقة.
شكرا للمشاركين وللمنظمين. pic.twitter.com/zVOXBMILtW
— Eitan Na'eh (@AmbassadorNaeh) January 27, 2021
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