For some young visitors, Holocaust exhibit on righteous Muslims calls up thoughts of Gaza
'Besa: A Code of Honor' is a collection of photographs documenting Albanian Muslims who saved Jewish lives.
An exhibition about Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust opened Tuesday in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Ramle.
The exhibit, entitled "Besa: A Code of Honor," is a collection of photographs by American photographer Norman Gershman documenting Albanian Muslims who saved Jewish lives. It is on display at the town's municipal museum.
Albania is the only country in Europe that ended World War II with more Jews than it had at its outset, thanks to the actions of local Muslims, 68 of whom have been recognized as Righteous Gentiles by the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance authority.
However, the Arab high school girls visiting the show, which opened Tuesday in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, wanted to talk to journalists only about the harm that came to innocent people in Gaza. Amira Abu-Ganem, a 10th grader, who admitted knowing little about the Holocaust, said, "I learned that Muslims helped Jews without getting anything in return, but now it's hard for me because of what happened in Gaza. I can't forget Gaza even here," she said. Her friend, Hendi, said, "Just like Hitler put you in the dark, we have also now entered the dark and it's a heartache." Their principal, Ribhi Samra, said: "The exhibit is especially important at this time. Today, people always talk about Muslims as terrorists; here is an example of humane Muslims. The girls are proud to be Muslims today."
The word "besa" in Albanian means "code of honor," which requires moral and humane behavior. Many of the Muslim righteous gentiles used this word when explaining why they saved Jewish lives.
At the beginning of World War II, there were 200 Jews in Albania. All of them survived the Italian and later German occupation, together with some 1600 Jews refugees from other countries who eventually found refuge there and were also saved.
The exhibit has been shown at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The chairman of Yad Vashem's board of directors, Avner Shalev, said of the decision to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day by showing the exhibit in Ramle: "We want to highlight the basic human dimension on this day; showing the exhibit in a mixed city symbolizes the possibility of living together."