The event
The event Yosef Hadad

International Holocaust Remembrance Day fell at the end of last week, and the Beyachad Areivim Zeh Lazeh organization held an online “salon” event, with participants from the Arab world. Israel National News spoke with Yosef Hadad, head of the organization, to hear his account of the event.

According to Hadad, around one hundred and fifty people took part, from all over the Arab world as well as Israel Arabs. This was the fourth year that the event has been held, but only the second year that participants from the Arab world attended, from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, as well as Dubai, Bahrain and others.

“People sent us text messages with their greetings from Lebanon, asking us to continue with our work,” Hadad said. “People from Syria talked about the importance of the event. There is a great thirst to understand what happened in the Holocaust, and people are very ignorant, due simply to a lack of information which is not their fault but rather the fault of those countries that want to minimize this event and deny it.”

As with all previous “Memory in the Salon” events, the focus was on a particular Holocaust survivor. “We managed to reach a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, Aryeh Shlinsky, whose grandson Gili teaches Arabic and presented his grandfather’s story in that language.”

Were the organizers also prepared to deal with anti-Semites breaking into the Zoom broadcast? Hadad replied in the affirmative. "We took that possibility into account. We were prepared for harassment and we were ready to deal with them, and that’s what happened – within just a few seconds, we got rid of them. It did not cloud the event.”

Participants from Arab countries, Hadad said, are sometimes aware of the Holocaust precisely because of the phenomenon of Holocaust denial in the countries they live in. “Everyone has heard about it in one way or another, whether from denial or from learning about it. For those who preferred to deny it, it really made an impact to hear someone actually giving testimony. And that’s why we do this event, to teach and educate.”

Hadad also noted that for some, privacy is imperative in order to protect personal safety. “We did what we could to protect people’s privacy, and some people attended without a video image, or with an initial instead of a name.”

He emphasized that while Arabs in Arab countries are interested in the subject, the reality of Israeli Arab society must be kept in mind. “We have important work to do here within Arab-Israeli society, especially when there is anti-Israel activity within the Arab sector, mainly due to the influence of their leaders – most people just want to live in peace,” he asserted.