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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 04, 2003

Israeli Arabs hope concentration camp visit will promote mutual understanding

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A group of Israeli Arab intellectuals is planning to participate in a trip to Nazi death camps in Poland this spring, hoping to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and to use the trip as a springboard for implementing a change in damaged Jewish-Arab relationships. Participants in the mission, called "From remembrance to peace," are careful not to compare the scope of the atrocities of the Holocaust with the contemporary Palestinian plight.

Yediot Aharonot reported today that the idea of Arabs visiting Polish concentration camps was born in the wake

"The pain will unite us."
Father Emil Shufani

of deteriorating relations between Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens, especially after the violent riots of October 2000 during which thirteen Israeli Arabs were killed by security forces. A mission statement issued by the group says: "Just as we want to heal our own pain, we are looking for a way to heal the pain of the other. From the acceptance of this principle, we decided to go deep into history to search for a path for a restored future."

The person who initiated the project is Father Emil Shufani, head of the Catholic community in Nazareth. Shufani, a writer and school principal, believes that study of the Holocaust can lead the way to healing the rift between Arabs and Jews. "There is potential in the subject of the Holocaust that we have not understood and known," he said. "The initiative is meant to reach places of pain - to learn, to touch, to take part of the pain and suffering unto ourselves; because it is the pain that will unite us. We want to understand what the destruction was, and what the suffering was. We don't want anything in return. We seek to touch the pain of the other in order to understand and move forward." [more]