Combating antisemitism is not just about protecting Jews and Israel, but about preserving universal values, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said during his visit to Israel this week.
“Antisemitism is a cause for everyone, not just for Israel or for Jewish people,” Rama said on Monday night at an event in Jerusalem honoring him and Albanian families who protected Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
“This is why being against antisemitism is not [about keeping the] flag of Israel but of keeping the flag of humanity,” he said.
It was his country’s long experience of standing up for Jews, he said, that inspired it to help Afghans fleeing the Taliban in 2021.
“I thought from the first second that Albania couldn’t shy away as richer and bigger countries did. We had to open our door and welcome these Afghans that would otherwise be victims of the Taliban’s revenge,” he said.
“We didn’t do it just for the Afghans, we did it for who we are, we did it for our kids, we did it for the memory.”
Albania has a majority Muslim population, a strong Christian minority and a very small Jewish community, whose history dates back 2,000 years to the Roman conquest of ancient Judea and the fall of the Second Temple.
Rama recalled the story of how some 3,000 Jews shipped out into slavery overcame their Roman captors and found safety on the Albanian shores.
Albania sheltered Jews during WWII
When World War II broke out, Albania sheltered Jews, swelling the small community’s numbers to 3,750, he explained. Albania refused to give the list of those names to the Nazis. Given the country’s history, the number was “prophetic,” he added.
“It is important to never forget that Jews in Albania were saved by Muslims and Christians, by Albanian families that have put before their now religious identity, their human identity."
“It is important to never forget that Jews in Albania were saved by Muslims and Christians, by Albanian families that have put before their now religious identity, their human identity."Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama
“They stayed true to the old saying that the Albanian home belongs to God and the guest, not the guest that you necessarily invite, but the one that wants to be helped, the one that knocks at your door, the one that may be unknown to you, but that you have the obligation to shelter and protect.
“So far there are 73 Albanians, Muslims and Christians who have been recognized as righteous among the nations,” he said, adding that there are still many more waiting to be recognized.
Five Albanian families at Monday night’s gathering in Jerusalem were honored for their rescue efforts. The event was organized by Alexander Machkevitch, who chairs the Eurasian Resources Group.