The participants lit six candles in memory of the Six Million with the Israeli flag in the background and sang songs of remembrance in Arabic.
By Aryeh Savir, TPS
Dozens of young Israeli Arabs gathered at a public hall in the northern Israeli town of Kisra-Sumei on Sunday evening to attend the first-ever Zikaron BaSalon Holocaust remembrance event for Arabs – in Arabic.
“Zikaron BaSalon,” which translates as “Memories in the Living Room,” is a social initiative that began in 2001 and provides a meaningful way to mark Yom HaShoah, Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Day. Held in homes and other informal settings, the event includes testimonies given by Holocaust survivors or other sources and discussions on the historic calamity, its meaning and ramifications.
The unique event was organized by “Together – Vouch for Each Other,” founded in 2018 by a group of young Israeli Arabs – Christians, Muslims, Bedouin and Druze – determined to bring about change in the Israeli-Arab sector and adopt a positive direction vis-à-vis Israeli society and the country.
Joseph Haddad, CEO of “Together – Vouch for Each Other,” explained before the event that “as hatred grows in the world and anti-Semitism continues, it is important that we all act together against it. We have the privilege to hold a memorial event for the first time in the Arab society on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here in Kisra-Sumei, young Muslims, Christians and Druze will conduct a dialogue and promise to remember and never forget.”
The participants lit six candles in memory of the six million Jewish Holocaust victims with the Israeli flag in the background and sang songs of remembrance in Arabic, much like a Jewish-Israeli ceremony.
Kisra-Sumei Council head Yasser Gadban said he was “happy to live here in the only democratic state in the Middle East. There have been wars in the past; our country has never used chemical weapons, unlike Arab countries. We have a strong army, leadership, education, I am proud to be an Israeli. I am moved every time anew when attending a Holocaust remembrance event.”
Baruch Keren-Zvi, whose parents were Holocaust survivors from Ukraine, shared his family’s story. He later said that while he attended many such events, this was one of the most moving he had ever experienced.
Becoming Part of Israeli Society
The Arab-Israeli educational system does not present youngsters with a well-rounded education on the Holocaust but, rather, as a chapter in World War II history.
Lorena Khateeb, one of the participants, told TPS about a very moving evening that she had helped organize, which was also very exciting because of its novelty. She received positive feedback throughout the night, she said, with many saying they wanted to attend more such programs.
Khateeb was motivated because she wanted to understand Israeli society and Israeli history, with a desire to become part of the fabric of Israeli society.
“It was amazing,” she told TPS. “If you want to be part of society you need to learn to know it,” she explained.
She underscored that such events are not common in the Arabic-speaking society, and therefore the issues of a shared dialogue with Israeli society and awareness about its mindset are important.
“If you seek partnership you must be active about it,” she said, while chiding the Israeli-Arab representatives at the Knesset, whom she said focused solely on themselves and on the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.
Khateeb said that her message to young Arabs is that “if you are unsatisfied with the situation, you should work to fix it, not only complain.”
Like any other country, Israel is not perfect, she said, but in comparison with the rest of the Middle East it is far better, and to seek change one must be active, she concluded.
The organization has plans to broaden the initiative next year and to expand to further locations.