Muslim opens first Arab Holocaust museum in Nazareth
Saturday, May 7, 2005
On the same day that the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum was opened this year, a lesser-known museum and educational center was opened by a Muslim man in the Israeli town of Nazareth. This unique museum, intended to raise awareness of past Jewish suffering in the eyes of Palestinians through historical photographs and Arabic-language educational materials, is believed to be the first-ever Arab holocaust museum.
Nazareth is of course well-known to Christians as the site where Joseph and Mary brought up the child Jesus. In modern times, Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel, having many self-proclaimed Palestinians, a Muslim majority, and a 35% Arab-Christian minority.
The museum's owner Khaleed Mahameed, a 43-year old lawyer, husband, and father of two, said that he learned about the holocaust during his time at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He spent about 20,000 shekels (US$4,500) of his own money in order to create the museum, despite the alienation of his own brother, the rejection of the Arab news media, and a public that is slow to accept his ideas.
Mahameed purchased about 80 photographs from the more well-known museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, site of Israel's national memorial to the Shoah (holocaust), located on the Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembrance). The newly enlarged Israeli museum at Yad Vashem, opened March 15 with the attendance of President Moshe Katsav, replaced what was the world's first holocaust museum, established in 1972.
As part of his effort to educate Palestinians, Mahameed has printed 2,000 booklets in Arabic describing photographs of Nazi horrors, offered stipends to Arab students of the subject, and started a new museum website (Alkaritha.org) with some translations offered in English, Arabic, and Hebrew.
Mahameed believes contributions such as his are necessary to the Mideast peace effort. Said Mahameed:
Mahameed is not without his critics, not only among Arabs who say that Mahameed should do more to draw attention to the situation of present-day Palestinians, but also representatives of the Israel office of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who have stated without visiting the museum that they consider some of the attitudes expressed on Mahameed's website to be anti-Semitic.
According to an ADL press release dated March 20:
Friday was Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, a day of solemn reflection on the loss of 5 to 7 million Jewish lives due to unprovoked Nazi aggression in World War II. Images, films and documentaries of the Holocaust are typically broadcast throughout the Israeli news media on that day, deeply affecting the survivors and their children.
However, these images do not typically reach a Palestinian audience, according to museum visitor Mufeed Khattib last month. "Perhaps I didn't see it well because it was on Israeli TV," he said. "But this affects me. It is different for me that an Arab man did this."