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Honoring the Righteous: second event

Monday 9 November 2015

On Wednesday November 4, the Peace Museum hosted members of the Armenian community in Israel and guests for abroad for a second event in its “Honoring the Righteous” series, the first of which took place last March.

The event was prompted by WAS-NS member Prof. Yair Auron’s research on “the righteous”, i.e. those who, in times of genocides or human catastrophes, have acted to save the victims, often at great risk to themselves or their communities.

The event highlighted stories of Armenians who had been saved by Turks during the Armenian genocide from the end of the 19th century up to 1915, as well as stories of Armenians who had acted to save Jews during the Shoah (Holocaust).

Among the Armenian guests were Dr. Georgette Avakian, chair of the Armenian Question Committee in Jerusalem, Fr. Emmanuel Atanjanyan, Archimandrite and Fr. Korian of the Armenian Patriarchate at St. James Cathedral, Jerusalem; Harut Sassounian, president of the United Armenian Fund and George Hintlian, resident historian on Armenian culture in Jerusalem. Also present were Israeli and Turkish guests. Among the Turkish scholars were Ragip Zarakolu of the Belgian Publishing House, and Prof. Ayhan Aktar of Istanbul Bligi University. Among the Israelis attending were Prof. Israel Charny, Prof. Elihu Richter, Prof. Benjamin Neurberg, Prof. Amia Lieblich and Prof. Bashir Bashir.

All of the scholars present had participated in an international conference - the first of its kind in Israel: "Genocide, History and Memory, One Hundred Years since the Armenian Genocide." Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin invited the conference participants to a meeting at his residence - a significant moral and political act.

The program, chaired by by the peace museum director Diana Rizek, included words of welcome by Yair Auron. Auron explained that the Armenians, after experiencing a genocide themselves, were among the most active in the saving of Jews during the Holocaust. According to him, Armenians saved more Jews than any did any other people. Among these was an Armenian priest, Fr. Daniel of Budapest, who saved 129 Jews in 1944. Another hitherto untold story involved the saving of Jews by the family of Charles Aznavour in Paris. Some of these stories will be presented in a book on which Auron is currently working.

Rita Boulos gave a presentation on WAS-NS, which was followed by questions and answers.

Historian George Hintlian was invited to describe his parents’ flight from genocide. He provided as context the plight of many Armenians of that time and the atrocities they suffered. Father Emmanuel, who came to Jerusalem in 1992, described how Armenians gave some examples of the saving of Jews by Armenians during the Shoah.

Fr. Emmanuel, archimandrite at the 12th century St. James Cathedral in Jerusalem spoke about the local Armenian community and of instances in which Armenians had been active in saving Jews during the Holocaust. He also chanted a liturgical prayer that included the words, “Even in the midst of hatred you can rise above this and look towards the future.”

The program was interspersed and concluded with songs by Tomas Galstian, a young Armenian singer living in Jerusalem.

Yair Auron, the final speaker, said that he saw the opening of the Museum, including a garden for the righteous, as a dream fulfilled. He said that this will be a place where young Palestinians and Jews can come to learn and be inspired by stories of the righteous – those who acted bravely and humanely to save others in their time of need.

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