Riara University marks the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the Holocaust Victims
The Holocaust remembrance event was held at Riara University, Nairobi, Kenya on 24th January 2018 from 1000hrs to 1215hrs. It was carried out in partnership with the Embassy of Israel, Nairobi and the United Nations Information Centre.
1.1 Attendance to the event
The event was attended by; His Excellency, Amb. Noah Gal Gendler, Embassy of Israel, the Vice Chancellor, Riara University, Prof. Robert Gateru, Dr. Francis Onditi, Program Leader, School of International Relations and Diplomacy, other Faculties’ members and students from Riara and Kenyatta University.
The participants arrived at the venue at 0930hrs and began registering.
- Welcome Remarks
2.1 Program Leader’s Opening Remarks
Dr. Onditi expressed his gratitude to the participants for joining Israel in marking the day of commemoration in memory of holocaust victims. He thanked the Embassy for honoring the university’s wish to host the event. He reiterated the importance of the day in ensuring that the world doesn’t forget the value of co-existence, tolerance and moderation in the society. He pointed out that holocaust is built on behavioral extremism and political intolerance and the world should ensure such an unfortunate event does not happen elsewhere in the world. Having given his opening remarks, Dr. Onditi proceeded to outline the session’s programme and concluded by inviting the Vice Chancellor to make his remarks.
2.2 Vice Chancellor’s Welcome Remarks
Prof. Gateru, the Vice Chancellor, Riara University shared his delight to be part of the event. He officially welcomed the participants and restated that the University was truly honored to host the holocaust memorial. For this, he expressed his gratitude to His Excellency. He indicated that this was in fact an opportunity to learn more about the holocaust as he acknowledged he is still learning. He revealed that the closest he has been to such a situation is when he visited the Rwanda genocide memorial and the 2007/8 post-election violence in Kenya albeit being small scale. He observed that humans are capable of doing great things, both positive and negative and challenged the participants to find out what role they can play as individuals in ensuring the world is cohesive and every human being lives with dignity. He closed by inviting His Excellency to give his remarks.
- Guest Speaker, Amb. Noah Gal Gendler’s Speech
His Excellency noted that it is a sad day for him to talk about holocaust but events like this will help to keep the victim’s memories alive. He described the holocaust as a systematic bureaucratic state sponsored persecution and murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Also targeted were Sikhs, Gypsies, some Slavic community the disabled, communists, Poles, Russians, socialists, Jehovah witnesses, Muslims and homosexuals. They were persecuted on political, ideological and behavioral grounds.
He told the participants that commemorating the holocaust is a call to promote peace and mutual understanding. He stated that the holocaust was a defining moment in human history. He explained that the genocide of Jewish people served no demographic purpose as many other genocides and atrocities often have economic, political or military motivations. The Jewish one had none of these incentives. He further pointed out that the Nazi theorists denied the basic principles of humanity, equality, and respect for justice, gender and religion.
To this end, he observed that examining this history can heighten the awareness of the danger of genocide in the contemporary world and bring forth importance of appreciation of individual rights and universal values. He stated that prevention of new crimes such as the holocaust requires continuous forms of awareness, involves the short and the long term at the local, national and global levels. Lastly, he emphasized that education about holocaust and importantly education about genocide/mass atrocities provides opportunities for critical thinking skills to augment resilient and effective responses to extreme and exclusionary ideologies and to illuminate to all how individuals see themselves in the context of their countries’ past, present and future.
He concluded by expressing his sincere gratitude to the Vice Chancellor for hosting the event.
“Stand and be counted as channels that pass the message of peace and living together in harmony”
- Amb. Gendler’s Recap of the Documentary-The Last Boy of Korczak
His Excellency started by giving definitions of some local terms in the documentary. Firstly, he defined Kibus as a community settlement in Israel where everything is done communally. It resembles communism idea of living together. Secondly, he defined Ghetto as where Jews were secluded during the war. He clarified that it is an Italian term and elaborated that the first ghetto was established in Italy and the Germans took this concept and put all the Jews together.
With regards to the documentary, he pointed out that madness has no borders. He explained that when Germans decided to get rid of the Jews, they decided overnight that Jews cannot be doctors in Germany. Consequently, 60-70 % of doctors were lost in Berlin. He added that talented people such as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Walter Benjamin were lost.
His second observation was that culture is not an insurance policy. He pointed out that Germans are the most cultured people of Europe, have well educated people, dominate the car industry yet at the end of the day they were murderers. However, he clarified that some Germans especially the soldiers understood the notion of the quality of people they were destroying but they did nothing because they were brainwashed and terrorized.
He recounted Itzchak Belfer, the hero of the documentary as a doctor, educator, an assimilating Jew, who didn’t have a family, had strange philosophies for those days including empowerment and rights of children.
He maintained that education for Jews is important and stressed that they cannot compare education to anything. He attributed this to their exile which forced them to educate themselves. He revealed this as the secret to their success.
His last observation was that nations that are weak and dependable on masses cannot survive. He explained that from their history, Jews were dispersed with no state, no army, weakened and that is why the Nazis were able to kill them.
- Q & A Session
Eliud Karani- Kenyatta University student
- i) Kenya is very polarized each election cycle. What role has Israel taken in ensuring no holocaust happens elsewhere in the world specifically Kenya?
Amb. Gendler’s Reply
His Excellency reiterated that diversity is a big power, not deficiency. He pointed out that countries with immigrants are very successful. However, he expressed his doubts as to how Israel could help Kenya in eradicating tribalism. He acknowledged that Israel also faces some internal divisions in places like Bahar and Gaza. Still, he maintained that despite divisions existing, people have to understand that when you don’t live together, you die together. He expressed his concerns that Kenyans kill each other.
- ii) What opportunities does Embassy of Israel offer to Kenyan students?
His Excellency said they were creating excellence centers and IT centers to prepare young generations for the future to come. He mentioned that they had partnered with Uasin Gishu County on establishing an incubation center and they were providing money, systems and transferring their philosophy. He hoped that it would be extended to the other 46 counties and restated the value Israel puts on investing in education.
Dr. Mueni Joy, Program Leader, Faculty of Mass Media and Journalism
- i) Why is Tel Aviv the best city for LGBTQI community?
His Excellency explained that the gay community identified the city as being free.
Christopher Beaux, Riara University, 4th Year student
Since the holocaust, genocide has taken place in other areas such as Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and now Myanmar. What policies have Israel taken in ensuring this does not happen again?
Amb. Gendler’s Reply
His Excellency stated that Israel is a sovereign county hence cannot send troops to other countries. He added that even in cases such as Syria, they cannot intervene as Israel is not part of Peace forces, not recognized by some states and does not have diplomatic relations with 45 states. However, he indicated that Israel helps train peace-keeping forces.
Ephraim Murenzi, Lecturer, Riara University
How does Israel deal with people denying holocaust happened?
Amb. Gendler’s Reply
His Excellency wondered why people claim they are not anti-Semitic but against the state of Israel, yet in reality they are. He called this the new anti-Semitism.
What is the ethos, philosophy that Israel instills in students to be able to be innovative?
Amb. Gendler’s Reply
His Excellency pointed out three things that help Israel be innovative. Firstly, students are encouraged to be curious and question everything. Secondly, there is collaboration in which all sectors of the economy including the army, academies and industry work together. Lastly, he remarked that necessity brought forth creativity especially in the water sector where 70-75% of the drinking water is desalinated. He adds that they also export this water to countries such as Jordan in huge volumes. He concluded by noting that Israel attributes strong leadership, creativity and innovation in decision making for its success.
- Vote of thanks- Beverline, Quality Assurance & Strategic Management Director
Ms. Beverline thanked the Ambassador and the Embassy for attendance. She recommended the set-up of a holocaust repository to carry forth the memories of the victims. She also expressed her gratitude to the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Onditi for successful planning the event, the faculty, security team, students, partners and the ICT team. She closed the session by appreciating the participants for making the event successful.