Holocaust education begins in the Arab world
The recent decision to teach about the Holocaust in Emirati schools is another step forward in building interfaith relations
International Holocaust Remembrance Day may not be exclusively for the Jewish people, but when we come face-to-face with the ever-growing levels of Holocaust denial and the threat for the Shoah’s momentous place in history to be shelved aside, it can feel that way at times.
This is why, as an Israeli Jew, the recent news coming from the Emirates felt more significant and personal than ever before; in a statement published earlier this month, the UAE made a historic announcement that the country will begin implementing Holocaust education as part of its curriculum for primary and secondary schools.
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Historically, the teaching of the Holocaust has been purposely absent in all Arab and Muslim countries, but the UAE has made an unprecedented and bold step by becoming the first Arab country to teach the events of the Holocaust to its people. “Memorializing the victims of the Holocaust is crucial,” said H.E Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi, chairman of the defense, interior and foreign affairs committee in the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC).
This much-welcomed change in the Middle East toward Jews and the Holocaust arise from different developments in the Arab world. A major role in this shift is attributed to the Abraham Accords, the peace agreements signed in 2020 between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, which continue to prosper and create a positive dynamic across the region.
Other recent milestones such as the opening of the first Holocaust memorial exhibition in the Arab world in Dubai, hosting the first official International Holocaust Remembrance Day event to be held in the Gulf in Abu Dhabi last year and the visit to Yad Vashem in Israel by UAE’s foreign minister on the second anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords. All highlight the UAE’s genuine commitment to honor the Jewish heritage and the country’s essential role as a regional leader in promoting peace, tolerance and inclusion for all peoples.
As inspiring as this news is, its timing couldn’t be more relevant, as we witness the rise of antisemitism rates in several western countries, including the United States, where levels of Holocaust awareness and education among Millennials and Gen Z are on the decline.
Adding another layer to this, we must take into account the harsh reality of the fact that this generation is likely to be the last to meet and speak with our beloved survivors. As this crucial connection to the Holocaust fades, our duty to protect and share their stories grows.
As people and communities around the world gather to commemorate the events of the Holocaust on the day of liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we must realize that it’s not enough that the war is over when there are still casualties caused by endless attempts to deny or alter the atrocities of the Nazis. We should recognize important steps such as the one taken by the United Arab Emirates, and encourage countries across the region and around the world to follow suit.
Yaara Segal is the former senior advisor to Israel’s ambassador in the UAE, and a strategy and communications specialist in the MENA region.