Photo Credit: Courtesy
Rachel Avraham (2nd from left) with Azerbaijan’s Ambassador-Designate Mukhtar Mammadov (3rd from right).

Some 100 people, including Azerbaijan’s Ambassador-Designate Mukhtar Mammadov, gathered at a commemorative concert featuring the prominent pianist, Narmin Rzayeva. Organized by the Azerbaijani Israeli group Aziz, the evening was titled “Khojaly.” As I reported earlier, on February 26, Azerbaijan marked the 1992 Khojaly Massacre Day, commemorating 613 innocent Azerbaijani men, women, and children who were slaughtered on one day for the crime of being Azerbaijani.

Rishon LeZion Deputy Mayor Mikhail Raif began the event, saying: “I am very pleased that Lev Spivak and others have decided to hold this event for our honorary guest, the Ambassador Designate of the State of Azerbaijan to our country. Mr. Ambassador, I would like to greet you with a special feeling of satisfaction because you have chosen Rishon LeZion for your first visit to our country in connection with this tragic event. Good luck to you on your very important task. This is a historic event. We are beginning a new chapter of diplomatic relations. Thank you all for coming.”


In his opening remarks, Ambassador Designate Mammadov declared: “I am honored that my first event as the appointed ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the State of Israel was dedicated to the tragic event in Khojaly. We should not forget our history. There are also many sad events in Jewish history. We must remember the history for future generations so that such things do not happen again.”

He then said, “Jews arrived in the Azerbaijani region 26 centuries ago, and still live well there today. I am happy to say that Azerbaijan is a country where there has never been antisemitism, and never will be. Jews have always felt at home in my country, in a multicultural society where people don’t care what ethnicity you belong to.”

Lev Spivak, who heads Aziz, told me: “Every year since our organization was founded, we have commemorated the tragedy in Khojaly, where they killed 613 children, women, and old people. Every year, we try to do an event in a different place in a different format to explain what happened in Khojaly, so that this will never happen again.”

Camilia Ioffe, an Israeli Azerbaijani opera singer who attended the event proclaimed: “When Khojaly happened, I lived in Azerbaijan. I studied at school. I felt everything that happened there. I studied with children who left their homes. I saw terrible things. To be a girl and feel that was something painful. It’s good to talk about it. The world must know about it.”

“It’s also good that, finally, we have an Azerbaijani embassy in Israel,” Ioffe said. “It’s good that Israelis are beginning to learn about Azerbaijan. If we don’t learn from history, we have no future. I pray for peace, both in Azerbaijan and in Israel.”


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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."