Washington DC, Mar 05 (Tirana Echo) – A new center of Albanian-Israeli friendship is to open up in Tirana, Albanian PM Edi Rama has told the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC this week. The center will celebrate the Albanian-Jewish friendship as well as tell the world about Albanian families who hid Jews from Nazi occupation during WW2.
“I am committed to building an Albanian-Israeli centre of culture in the heart of the capital, Tirana and in order to do so we have engaged Daniel Libeskind, the author of the distinguished Jewish Museum in Berlin, who is working with us on the project”, – said Rama to AIPAC delegates in DC.
Albania is the only country where there were more Jews after WW2 then before it, making it a unique case of human solidarity among nations.
Below the full interview of Prime Minister Edi Rama conducted by Israeli journalist Ranin Boulos in front of 18 thousand members at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Annual Conference in Washington DC:
Welcome Mr. Prime Minister! Two years ago you visited Israel on an official visit and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders. Agreements in the field of security or investments in private sectors were signed. Will you give us a summary of these agreements of partnership and what can be done more to strengthen the relations of your country with Israel?
Prime Minister Edi Rama: Thank you! First of all I would like to express how honoured and humble I am to address to this audience as Prime Minister of Albania, a country which has had most Jews after World War II than before the war began. Jews salvation during World War II is a remarkable page of our history but not the only one related to Jew and Albanian relationship. Your predecessors came to Albania looking for shelter three other times before, in the first century, in the fifteenth century and in the seventeenth century and they always found shelter in Albania. Thus, our relation with the state of Israel is rather special and great and we would certainly like to see it promoted more and more things to occur between us.
By the way, for the first time this year, there will be established a direct flight from Israel to Albania in summer time. Thus I strongly desire, as described in the Leo Elton’s Report of 1035, the second land of the Jews, turns to be your second home for spending the vacations. Hence you are very welcomed to Albania.
Mr. Prime Minister! Your country is located in an important region for Israel, with neighbouring friendly countries to Israel like Montenegro and Greece. How can Albania lead a Balkan effort for deepening relations with Israel and supporting Israel in fields that have to do with security and vote at the United Nations?
Prime Minister Rama: First of all, it can happen through telling our history and protecting our common values. I am committed to building an Albanian-Israeli centre of culture in the heart of the capital, Tirana and in order to do so we have engaged Daniel Libeskind, the author of the distinguished Jewish Museum in Berlin, who is working with us on the project. We want to showcase our relations’ history to our children and to our neighbours. I would like to see a twin-centre in Jerusalem where people of different religions can learn the extraordinary story that beyond every belief and religion Albanians saw Jews as people among people. Being a country of Muslims and Christians, Albanians are ranked in the forefront of struggle against violent extremism and terrorism. There is also a centre against violent extremism in Tirana and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised Israel as being the main partner for transitioning this centre into a point of reference in the region. Thus, I strongly believe that Albania sets an example of co-existence between the Muslims and the Christians, and a country that protects none the less but the same values like Israel preserves, with its existence and endurance.
Mr. Prime Minister! Albania has a legacy of being proud of its Jewish treatment during the World War II. Although under occupation, Albania defended its Jewish community, but also offered shelter to Jews coming to Albania. It is well-evidenced that Albania refused to hand over the members of the Israeli community. What is in the core of such a heroism and stand?
Prime Minister Rama: Albania was the first country in Europe, in 1932, when anti-Semitism was widespread, that recognized the right of the Jewish community to get organized and legalize Shabbat. The story is absolutely extraordinary because the Jews were rescued not only by the Muslim families, but even the Catholic clergy. The story goes that a great Christian clergyman baptized many Jews to change their identity and protect them from the Nazi. Another story is that of the leading Nazi Hermann Neubacher who summoned in 1943 representatives from our four religious communities and demanded the list of Jews and the list of gold they had. But they gave the list of gold instead, not the list of the Jews. This is quite extraordinary how no Jews were ever handled to Germans, be it from Muslims or Catholics, but also a great history lecture and it is what I strongly believe to not take for granted but we must do the utmost that this heritage is preserved for the coming generations and fostered as an inspiration for the future.
You have expanded to the Adriatic Sea, so my question is what other challenges does Albania face either in the security area or other fields, being a country on the shores of the Adriatic Sea?
Prime Minister Rama: Following Montenegro joining the NATO, the Adriatic Sea is already the NATO’s border, in its length and its expansion. It is obviously considered as highly secure, but we must fight together along with our partners against common threats. Including, not only terrorism and violent extremism, but even the sources that finance this kind of activities involving different types of smuggling, drug trafficking and so on.
Although I see that my time is running out I would like to thank the hosts for the invitation as it is not merely an honour to me but it is an act of estimation for my country and to my people, to attend this conference with you and an opportunity to testify our old and profound friendship.
I also welcome you in Albania, a country where there is a lot to learn and there is a unique space where beauty and hospitality are combined in coexistence.
It was Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama, thank you!
Prime Minister Rama: Thank you very much!