Over five years since planning began, a museum project commemorating the role of 1.5 million Jewish soldiers in World War II has yet to get off the ground, complained veterans before the Knesset Public Petitions Committee on Tuesday. But the muscle behind the museum's establishment, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvi Kan-Tor, CEO of the Association for Establishing the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in WWII, said that in the coming weeks, the picture will change entirely.
"Queen Esther made a miracle and saved the Jewish people 2,000 years ago, and we're still celebrating Purim," said one Red Army veteran who attended the meeting. He said of the 1.5m. Jews who fought against the Nazis, "after 60 years, who remembers them?"
The establishment of the museum, slated to spread across 2,000 square meters just south of the Latrun Armored Corps Memorial, is a cause that Israel Beiteinu has championed in recent years. The funding for the museum was one of the conditions of the coalition agreement that party chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman signed with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2006. Representatives from the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry emphasized on Tuesday that the funds - to a tune of NIS 16m. - had already been earmarked for the project.
The agreement between the Association and the government ensured that the veterans group would bring an additional NIS 16m. of donor funds to the project, the first part of which Kan-Tor said is en route in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, although the cornerstone was laid for the museum in December 2007, work on the project has stalled. With no budget for as much as a secretary, said Kan-Tor, the museum and the veterans are waiting for those funds in order to hire an architect and get the project rolling.
The museum, which is now slated to be ready in 2011, will be situated underground in order to preserve the historical landscape of the Mandate-era British police station also at Latrun. The museum's six planned displays will combine themes and a chronology of events in order to tell the story of Jewish soldiers that fought in WWII. It will also function as an educational center for a number of activities both inside and outside the building's walls.
"I didn't fight in WWII, but I did fight in others," said Kan-Tor during the meeting. "And I know that we are now losing an important war, and that is to preserve the history of our people," he added, expressing concern that many Israeli youngsters were simply aware of the war as "something that happened between Bar Kochba and 1948."
At the close of the meeting, Committee Chairwoman Sofa Landver said that within a week, Kan-Tor would have to report back to the committee regarding the status of the donor funds due to arrive, and the Interior Ministry would then have to clarify the final barriers regarding zoning for the museum.
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