The United Arab Emirates’ Crossroads of Civilizations Museum put a Torah scroll rescued from the Holocaust on display, following an historic announcement by the UAE’s Education Ministry that it would begin teaching about the Holocaust in its primary and secondary schools.
The museum, located in Dubai’s historic district, received the scroll on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, an organization that serves as the caretaker for more than 1,000 Czech scrolls saved from the Holocaust.
According to the Crossroads museum’s founder, Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, the Holocaust exhibit will help fight against Holocaust denial.
“It was the biggest crime, biggest genocide against humanity,” he said. “We want to learn the roots of these things so that we can prevent it. Unfortunately, they [genocides] are continuing to happen and might happen again.”
“For us, peace is a complete peace,” Al Mansoori said. “Many people have forgotten the Jews are part of the region. So here, we’re trying to show … the good days between the Jews and the Arabs in the past.”
The certificate accompanying the 18th century Torah scroll, called Sefer Torah number 537, states that it is “one of the 1,564 Czech Memorial Scrolls which formed part of the Jewish treasures saved in Prague during the Nazi occupation of 1939-45.”
Edwin Shuker, an Iraqi-Jewish businessman and vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, facilitated the loan.
“I lived in the Arab world when I was young, and the term Holocaust does not exist,” said Shuker, calling the exhibit “a huge step.”
Holocaust survivor Gideon Lev addressed those gathered for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at the museum. Lev, who was born in Czechoslovakia in 1935, described the horrifying changes that happened in his life after Adolph Hitler came to power.
He talked about his last memories of his grandparents, who died in the Nazis’ extermination camps, as well as the broad changes targeting Jewish people that stole his childhood.
“I didn’t have a childhood,” Lev said.
The Czech survivor described trying to rebuild his life with his mother after the end of World War II.
“Every day I would pray for my father to come back,” he said. “But he didn’t. Neither did 26 other members of my family.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek also addressed the gathering.
“It’s important to remember what happened. It’s important to make sure that it will never happen again. And it’s important to stand here together, all of us, Israelis, Emiratis, and others in order to say, ‘Never again,'” Hayek said.