| “Today is very special as the first showing of 'People, Book, Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land', in a country that is predominantly Muslim and a friend of Israel.”
“We know that Albania is well aware of the dangers of Jihadism and will not permit this plague on its soil.”
Tirana, 31 May 2016
In his speech at the Albanian opening of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre-UNESCO sponsored exhibition, “People, Book, Land,” Dr. Shimon Samuels, SWC Director for International Relations, expressed the Centre's appreciation for Prime Minister Edi Rema's hospitality in displaying our Exhibition in his impressive Cabinet Gallery.
Samuels noted his 1986 visit to Albania 30 years ago, after the dictator Enver Xoxha's death. “I came to meet with Albanian Jews, together with a British-Pakistani colleague who was meeting Muslims, in a country where – at that time – all religions were banned.”
Samuels continued, “I then learned of the Albanian hospitality custom of 'Besa' (honour or trust), an outstretched arm that helped 1,800 Jewish fugitives survive the Italian and German occupations – acts acknowledged by the Yad VaShem Memorial in Jerusalem and the Washington Holocaust Museum.
“Five years later, in August 1991, we witnessed how – under the cover of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – Italy concentrated 15,000 Albanian migrants in stadiums, prior to violent deportations. We vigorously protested to then Prime Minister Andreotti, a human rights violation that had to be condemned.
Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati presented the Prime Minister's message as the latter was detained at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.”
|L-R: Albania Jewish Community President Gery Korut, Parliament Speaker Valentina Leskaj, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, S. Samuels, Israeli Ambassador Boaz Rodkin, Montenegro Jewish Community President Jasa Alfandari.
Photo: Eriona Cami
Bushati quoted from Prime Minister Rema's December 21, 2015 remarks in Israel, celebrating, “25 years of excellent diplomatic relations,” when a statement was signed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attesting to, “the special relationship between our two countries and peoples.”
“Netanyahu had stressed: 'We do not ever forget our friends'. This shows that the friendship which was bound by our predecessor continues to be preserved for new generations that will follow.”
| Samuels with Orthodox Father Elia and Bekhtashi Muslim Dervish Saliud.
Albanian Jewish Community President, Geri Korut, recalled the welcome granted to Jews by Albania over the centuries and the current rebirth of the Jewish community.
Samuels thanked Korut, especially for his production of a beautiful souvenir brochure in Albanian of the Exhibition.
Samuels recounted the itinerary of the exhibition:
UNESCO, Paris, under the rubric of heritage
United Nations headquarters, New York
United States Congress
Israeli Knesset (Parliament)
Montenegro, one of the first sponsors, together with Israel, Canada and the United States
Copenhagen Town Hall
London Houses of Parliament
Samuels emphasized, “Today is very special as this is the Exhibition's first showing in a country that is predominantly Muslim and a friend of Israel,” adding, “We know that Albania is well aware of the dangers of Jihadism that menaces Western Europe, evident in the attacks on Jews, but also moderate Muslims, Christians and anyone else along the way.”
“Intelligence sources claim over 100 Albanian volunteers are in Syria. We are certain that Albania will not permit this plague upon its soil and we look forward to a warm continuing cooperation with Tirana. Falem Inderet. Thank you,” concluded Samuels.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).