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Centuries of Genocide

America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915
 

Yossi Sarid, Minister of Education of Israel (2000)


I join you, members of the Armenian community, on your Memorial Day, as you mark the 85th anniversary of your genocide. I am here, with you, as a human being, as a Jew, as an Israeli, and as Education Minister of the State of Israel.

Every year, Armenians gather in Israel and all over the world to remember and to remind the world of the terrible disaster, that befell your people at the beginning of the last century.

For many years, too many years, you were alone on your Memorial Day. I'm aware of the special significance of my presence here today along with other Israelis. Today perhaps for the first time you are less alone.

The Armenian Memorial Day should be a day of reflection and introspection for all of us, a day of soul-searching. On this day, we as Jews, victims of the Shoah should examine our relationship to the pain of others.

The massacre, which was carried out by the Turks against the Armenians in 1915 and 1916, was one of the most horrible acts to occur in modern times.

The Jewish ambassador of America to Turkey in those days, Henry Morgenthau, described the massacre as "The greatest crime in modern history." Morgenthau did not predict what was in store later in the 20th century for the Jews, the Shoah, the most terrible of all is still in front of our eyes.

The person who was most shocked and shocked many people was the Prague-born Jewish author, Franz Werfel, with his masterpiece The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.. The idea for writing the book was born in March 1929, when Werfel visited Damascus on his way to Palestine. He wrote: "The pitiful scene of the starved and mutilated children of the Armenian refugees gave me the last push to redeem the cruel fate of the Armenian people from the abyss of oblivion."

The book that appeared in German in 1933 shocked millions of people. Adolf Hitler was then in power. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was thrown into the flames along with other forbidden books. The book was translated into Hebrew in 1934, and influenced many young people in Eretz Israel including me.

For me and for many youngsters my generation in Israel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh had a formative effect on our personality and our world outlook.

Today in Israel very few youngsters have heard about Musa Dagh, very few know about the Armenian Genocide. I know how important the position of the Jews, and especially the attitude of the State of Israel to your genocide, are for Armenians in the world. As Minister of Education of the State of Israel, I will do whatever is in my capacity in order that this monumental work The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is once more well known to our children. I will do everything in order that Israeli children learn and know about the Armenian Genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity and there is nothing more horrible and odious than Genocide. One of the objectives of our education- our main objective- is to instill sensitivity to the harm to the innocent based on nationality alone. We, Jews, as principal victims of murderous hatred are doubly obligated to be sensitive, to identify with other victims.

We have to evoke among the young generation natural and deep indignation against manifestations of genocide in the past, in the present and in future. Genocide is the root of all evil and we have to make supreme political and educational efforts to uproot and extirpate it.

Whoever stands indifferent in front of it, or ignores it, whoever makes calculations, whoever is silent always helps the perpetrator of the crime and not the murdered.

In 1918, Shmuel Talkowsky, the secretary of Chaim Weizmann wrote with the approval of Weitzman, an important article entitled "The Armenian Question from a Zionist Standpoint."

Among other things, he said. "We, Zionists, have deep and candid sympathy for the fate of the Armenian people. We do this as human beings, as Jews and as Zionists. As human beings our motto is: I am a human being. Whatever affects another human being affects me."

"As Jews, as an ancient exiled people we suffered in all parts of the world. I dare say, they made us experts of martyrdom. Our humanitarian sentiments are so sharpened that nobody matches us. The suffering of any nation no matter how foreign to us or how far from us, affects deeply the chords of our souls, and created between us and the suffering nation a profound sympathy which we can call the "brotherhood of affliction." Among the nations who suffer in our neighborhood there is no nation whose martyrdom is more similar than the Armenian people. As Zionists we have several reasons to sympathize with the Armenian Question. As Zionism by its essence is nothing but the Jewish expression of the demand for national justice, it is natural and logical, that the struggle of a nation for emancipation arouses in us a profound interest. We are convinced that in that region of the globe- the Middle East- the birthplace of our nation- Eretz Israel, is only a small part of it, will secure peace and prosperity when the well-defined national aspirations will be fulfilled (to the maximum extent possible.) In our view, a free and prosperous Armenia, free and prosperous Arab land and free and prosperous Eretz Israel are the three pillars on which will be built peace and calm in the Middle East."

This is what the secretary of Chaim Weizmann wrote more than 80 years ago, things that are important and just, that stress the value of human life, no matter who- Jew, Arab, Armenian, Gypsy, Bosnian, Albanian or Rwandan- and I want this lofty message to be imparted to all our students in our school history curriculum; a new program which is now in the process of being written.

I would like to see a central chapter on genocide, on this huge and inhuman atrocity. The Armenian genocide should occupy a prominent place in this program which does justice to the national and personal memory of every one of you, to the memory of all the members of your nation. This is our obligation to you; this is our obligation to ourselves.

Now we are on the eve of our Feast. It is the Feast of our freedom and we emerge from slavery to redemption. From slavery to freedom.

This is what we wish to every nation and also to the Armenian people--Freedom and Redemption--Redemption and Freedom.

 


 
 
 
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