Zelenska visits Yad Vashem, launches new Ukrainian-language audio guide

Ukraine’s first lady inaugurates promenade in Jerusalem named for Ukrainian couple who saved Jewish family during Holocaust

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska in the Hall of Names as Yad Vashem Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, June 20, 2023. (Twitter screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska in the Hall of Names as Yad Vashem Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, June 20, 2023. (Twitter screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday, as part of her ongoing tour of Israel.

Accompanied by Yad Vashem head Dani Dayan, Zelenska inaugurated a new Ukrainian-language audio guide for the Hall of Names and visited a tree planted to honor Ukrainian Righteous Among the Nations recipient Yakov Sukhenko.

She also viewed the Book of Names, which contains 4.8 million names of the 6 million Holocaust dead that museum researchers have identified, visited the Children’s Memorial, and participated in a ceremony at the Memorial Hall.

At the end of the visit, the Ukrainian first lady had an apparently chance encounter with a group of teachers from her country who were at Yad Vashem for a seminar about teaching the Holocaust.

Later in the day, Zelenska opened a new promenade in Jerusalem named to honor a Ukrainian couple, Yulia and Roman Shchepanyuk, who sheltered the Jewish Weiss family during the Holocaust.

“Civilian heroism is about actions where humanity prevails. In Ukraine, more than 2600 families became Righteous Among the Nations, their help will be forever remembered by Israel. This is a reminder to everyone that even in the darkest of times you can be human, resist, save — and win,” Zelenska tweeted.

Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly tried to justify their invasion of Ukraine as a struggle against neo-Nazism, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Zelenska’s husband, is himself Jewish.

Zelenska kicked off her tour in Israel on Monday, meeting President Isaac Herzog alongside his wife. Later in the day, she met with a range of medical and psychological experts at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. Her trip is scheduled to last four days in total.

Zelenska has been traveling the world and meeting world leaders to draw humanitarian support for her country since the beginning of the Russian invasion in early 2022. Israel has sent repeated waves of humanitarian and medical aid to Ukraine, but has been criticized by Kyiv for not sending asked-for military assistance.

Israel’s hesitance to become militarily involved in the conflict is rooted in — among other concerns — its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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