Israeli House to establish first Holocaust memorial in Georgia

Article from Jerusalem Post Hasbara is Israel’s main “soft-power” diplomacy tool, aimed primarily at external audiences, unlike the negatively perceived “propaganda,” which is directly internally.

Pro-Israel NGO Israeli House is positioned to inaugurate the first Holocaust memorial in Georgia this September.

Israeli House announced that they intend to establish the memorial in Oni, Georgia, in cooperation with the Georgian Government and the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ), who works with the Israeli House under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

Not only will it be the first Holocaust memorial in Georgia, but it will also be the first memorial to be established in a city where there is no Holocaust history. The organization noted, however, that Sergey Metreveli - a Georgian who saved Jews during the Holocaust and was named as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem - lived in Oni, and although minuscule, was the extent to which the Holocaust was evident in Georgia.

Israeli House works in hasbara - Israeli public diplomacy - educating international audiences on Israel's history and the plights of the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even had a career within hasbara, and his success within the organization led to him becoming a household name around the world, deputy foreign minister, and ultimately, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Within recent years, Israeli House has teamed up with members of Knesset - such as Head of the Aliyah Committee David Bitan, Economy Minister Amir Peretz and the Labor and Social Affairs Minister Itzik Shmuli - to develop a "pilot version of the Israeli hasbara methodology in Georgia," to which the organization hopes will be introduced into 100 countries around the globe. The initiative is still awaiting the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' approval, and once enacted will be completely autonomous from the State of Israel, running under the auspices of the Israeli House.

In line with their informational efforts, the Israeli House developed Holocaust courses and faculty members specializing in Israeli history which they deployed at four top Georgian universities. At two others, the Israeli House set up "Jewish History Rooms" in collaboration with the Sarah Foundation.

The Israeli House also organizes annual Holocaust ceremonies with the Georgian government - attended by thousands each year, including state officials, heads of government and the prime minister, among others. And while there was no Holocaust history in Georgia, the connection between the Eurasian nation and the Jewish State has been well established since the 1990s as it was the first to "open its doors" to Israel and the Jewish Agency, and the first former Soviet nation to establish a diplomatic mission with Israel - following the USSR's collapse, and the succeeding influx of Jewish immigrants attempting to make it to Israel. Head of the Israeli House Itsik Moshe believes that following the successful implementation of the memorial in Oni, more will be established in Tbilisi and hopefully other countries in the future. "The Israeli Foreign Ministry and representatives of it does not participate in Israeli and Jewish events organized by the Israeli House, despite the fact that the Georgian government and representatives of the Council of Europe regularly participate," Moshe said, according to an Israeli House press statement. "The Israeli House hopes that the new minister will rectify the period in which the Israeli Foreign Ministry didn’t have a minister in the past years, in addition will study the activities of post-Soviet countries embassies, and at the end of the year will take part in Israel Week in Georgia." Reuven Ben-Shalom and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.


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