ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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As UAE embraces Holocaust studies, museum displays Torah scroll saved in genocide

Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilizations Museum founder says exhibition aims to fight Holocaust denial, remind visitors of ‘good days’ between Jews and Arabs in region

Ahmed al-Mansoori, director of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, shows visitors around the Holocaust Gallery, in Dubai on January 11, 2023. (Karim Sahib/ AFP)
Ahmed al-Mansoori, director of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, shows visitors around the Holocaust Gallery, in Dubai on January 11, 2023. (Karim Sahib/ AFP)

A Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust was put on display at a museum in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, as the Gulf country prepares to include the study of the genocide in its school curriculum.

Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, the founder of Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, told Reuters the exhibition aims to combat Holocaust denial in the region and to remind visitors of Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Middle East.

“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,” he said.

The Memorial Scrolls Trust, a London-based foundation that cares for more than 1,000 Czech scrolls saved from the Holocaust, permanently loaned the Torah to the museum.

Board of Deputies of British Jews president Edwin Shuker, who grew up in Iraq and organized the loan, told Reuters that the exhibition was a “huge step.”

“I lived in the Arab world when I was young, and the term Holocaust does not exist,” he said.

Ahmed al-Mansoori, director of the ‘Crossroads of Civilizations Museum,’ shows visitors around a gallery at the facility in Dubai on January 11, 2023. (Karim SAHIB / AFP)

Earlier this month, the UAE announced it will begin teaching about the Holocaust in history classes in primary and secondary schools across the country, becoming the first Arab nation to do so.

The Gulf state’s move comes after it agreed to normalize ties with Israel under the US-brokered 2020 Abraham Accords along with Bahrain and Morocco, years after Egypt and Jordan had forged relations.

In 2021, the region’s first Holocaust memorial exhibition opened in Dubai, just months after the accords were signed.

Arab nations have generally been reluctant to tackle the subject, given that Nazi Germany’s mass murder of Jews in gas chambers and on death marches is seen by some in the region as a key factor leading to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel.

The founding of Israel as a safe haven for Jews led to the large-scale displacement of Palestinians.

Solidarity with the Palestinian cause has made the Holocaust a taboo subject in many Arab countries, where school texts and world maps often deny the very existence of Israel, which is commonly dubbed the “Zionist entity.”

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