“The least we can do as Jews is help those who helped us during the most difficult times,” said the organizer of the group sent to Albania.
Following a powerful earthquake in Albania on November 26, a group of Jews went to rebuild the home of Muhamet Bicaku, a Muslim man whose father and brother rescued 20 Jewish families from occupation forces during the Holocaust.
The group was sent by the organization From the Depths, which aims to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and through special events and projects.
Jonny Daniels, who spearheaded the mission to repair Bicaku’s home, also led a delegation to visit Albanian “Righteous Among The Nations” who were affected by the earthquake. “Righteous Among the Nations” is an honor granted by the State of Israel to thank non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews.
Bicaku, 83, lost his home when the 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck. More than 11,000 buildings were damaged leaving about 13,000 people homeless. Fifty-five people were killed and more than 3,000 were injured.
From the Depths is rebuilding Bicaku’s house in honor of his father Mefaiil and older brother Njazi. They sheltered Jews from Italian and German occupation forces during World War II. Bicaku was 5-years-old when his family hid the Jewish families, saving them from certain death.
“Albania was the only country under occupation, where there were more Jews after than before the Holocaust, with over 2,000 Jews saved and efforts from the then King, King Zog I, in issuing over 700 false visas to help Jews escape Europe,” said Daniels, the British-Israeli founder of From the Depths. “The least we can do as Jews is stand besides and help those who helped us during their most difficult times.”
The organization raised $10,000 of the $45,000 needed to rebuild Bicaku’s house, Daniels said in a statement on Wednesday.
In 1996, Israel recognized Mefaiil and Njazi with the “Right Among the Nations” medal.
The Bicaku family was honored in 2007 with the Anti-Defamation League’s Courage to Care Award.
“They offered our people the most basic human need, shelter, in their difficult times, saving their lives,” Daniels wrote in the statement. “It should be clear to us today that we can come together and make it good.”
Israel Sends Military Engineers to Help
Daniels’ group arrived on the heels of an Israeli military engineer corps sent by the state to help Albania after the earthquake. Their mission was to determine which buildings are safe for habitation following the disaster.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared on Twitter a video of Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama publicly thanking and praising the Israeli team for their professionalism.
“Bibi, shalom from Durres,” Rama said in the video, while surrounded by the 10 Israeli active duty and reserve soldiers. “We’re here with your fantastic guys. They are doing a great job in calming the people and telling them how to be resilient.”
Netanyahu wrote about the video, “Thank you for your warm words my friend, Prime Minister of Albania. Israel stands with Albania in this difficult hour.”