Over 40 global leaders gathered for an official dinner hosted by President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin at Beit HaNasi in honor of the World Holocaust Forum
President Rivlin to the assembled leaders:
“This is a historic gathering, not only for Israel and the Jewish People, but for all humanity. This evening as we remember the victims of the Holocaust, and World War Two, we also mark the victory of freedom and human dignity”
“I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on earth, that the leaders of the world will stand united in the fight against racism, antisemitism and extremism, in de-fending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice”
For the first time in history, over 40 global leaders gathered for an official dinner hosted by President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin tonight, Wednesday 22 January / 25 Tevet, at Beit HaNasi in honor of the World Holocaust Forum. President Rivlin, the official host of the events delivered remarks tonight, as did HM King Felipe VI of Spain and Israel Prize laureate Prof Yehuda Bauer. Among the honored guests were the President of France, the President of Germany, the President of Italy and many others. Among the Israeli dignitaries were the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Chairman of the World Holocaust Forum, the Chairman of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, Benny Gantz, the Speaker of the Knesset, the IDF Chief of Staff, the President of the Supreme Court and the Mayor of Jerusalem.
The evening began with a reception with the president welcoming each guest as they arrived with a handshake. The guests went from the reception to their places at the table for the official dinner. “Welcome to the official dinner in honor of the 5th World Holocaust Forum, under the auspices of the President of the State of Israel,” began the evening’s compere, Yael Lavie. “The World Holocaust Forum marks International Holocaust Day in memories of the victims of the Shoah, and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The State of Israel deeply appreciates the fact that so many world leaders are participating in this forum to ensure we turn remembrance of the past into the promise of the future.”
In honor of the occasion, a special film was screened to the guests with comments by 44 world leaders calling for Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism which have been brought together in a unique book published by Yad Vashem and the World Holocaust Forum.
The president began his remarks by saying, “On behalf of the State of Israel and the People of Israel, welcome to Jerusalem. Thank you all for being here. This is a historic gathering, not only for Israel and the Jewish People, but for all humanity. This evening as we remember the victims of the Holocaust, and World War Two, we also mark the victory of freedom and human dignity.”
He concluded: “The future lies in the choices we make, especially, those we make together, as countries and nations. I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on earth, that the leaders of the world will stand united in the fight against racism, antisemitism and extremism, in de-fending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice.”
After the first course was served, David D’Or, Miri Mesika and Amir Benayoun performed the song ‘The Last Survivor’, written in 2018 for the Knesset delegation to the March of the Living by Amir Benayoun with words by Moshe Klughaft. The song, performed in English and Hebrew, is a moving testament to Holocaust survivor who are a living bridge to the world that was destroyed and the world that was rebuilt.
The opening to the song was played on a violin owned by Holocaust survivor Itzhak Reider ז"ל a talented musician living Warsaw when war broke out. Itzhak hid from the Nazis but continued to play together with a German friend. The same friend smuggled him from Poland to Belarus with a fake passport but Itzhak was caught on the way by the SS. They forced him to play for them and thus decided to let him live. He hid in a hole in Belarus and and fled from the Nazis once again, making his way to Moscow. His violin was left behind. Itzhak’s entire family was murdered by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto and in Auschwitz, but he managed to rebuild his life through music and became a noted professor, had a family and immigrated to Israel. In 1973, a stranger knocked on his door and returned his lost violin to his son Vladimir, without saying a word.
In his speech on behalf of the leaders, HM King Felipe VI of Spain said, “Having a precious, rich and complex Jewish past and a vibrant Jewish community, Spain decided to create a solid framework of rules and initiatives to fight relentlessly against antisemitism and every form of xenophobia and racism. There are, of course, many more Nations ─both present here and others─ that are making similar efforts and progress; but, while I remain optimistic, I know ─we all know─ that we will always need to persevere together so that those words we have repeated so many times, “never again”, remain our guiding and unwithering principle.”
Shlomi Shaban then performed a special arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’. The song was written when Cohen heard testimonies of survivors of death camps who spoke about string ensembles whose members were forced to play as prisoners were marched to their death in the gas chambers. Shlomi Shaban is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who survived Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical experiments, Helena Adler Moskovich. In Auschwitz she was sent to work in the camp’s kitchen where she smuggled scraps of food to other prisoners and helped them survive.
The event ended with a group photograph of the assembled leader, after which dessert was served.
Photo credit: Koby Gideon (GPO)
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