By Mara Vigevani/TPS
Israeli President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin said Thursday that the establishment of Israel was not “compensation” for the Holocaust, and added that the Jewish tragedy during World War II is a shared history for all Israelis and all Jews.
“I tell all the heads of state I meet with that Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust – my family came here 210 years ago. But it is important to let everyone know that the Holocaust is a milestone in our lives and in our history, and Babi Yar is something that must be remembered when we talk about all the things we have been through as a nation,” said Rivlin.
Speaking to a delegation of executives from the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, a project scheduled to open in 2021 in the infamous Ukrainian forest in which 33,771 Jews were murdered on September 29 and 30, 1941, Rivlin said he has played an active role in promoting memorial projects, including last week during his state visit to Greece.
“Last week I was in Thessaloniki in order to lay the cornerstone of the new Holocaust museum there, together with the Prime Minister of Greece. There are symbolic stations to all what happened to the Jewish people over the last 200 years, and especially during the Holocaust: Thessaloniki is one of them, Babi Yar is one of them, of course the Warsaw Ghetto and the concentration camps,” the president added.
The Babi Yar center will feature a museum with a permanent exhibit, outdoor space, educational programs, a traveling exhibit, and an archive and research center.
The project has been controversial from the start: Jewish religious authorities have objected to building the museum on the site of the massacre because Jewish law prohibits construction on top of human remains, while a group of Ukrainian historians feel it is a ‘mistake’ to associate Babi Yar only with the history of the Holocaust while ignoring other victims.
Yana Barinova, the chief operating officer for the museum, said the project would pay tribute to all victims, and would serve as a research center for research on Holocaust-related crimes in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Chief Operating Officer Genadi Verbylenko added that the museum would serve to rectify a “blind spot” that many Ukrainians have about their country’s role in the Holocaust.
“Ukraine remains a blind spot on the map of the Holocaust memorials,” Verbylenko said. “Our goal is not about construction but rather about building trust. We intend to be a community-building institution… (that will be) about remembering the past and building the future.”