By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency
A memorial event with a special photo exhibition honoring the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took place on Monday, September 15 in Minsk at the National History Museum of Belarus, from where Sharon’s parents immigrated to the Jewish State.
The event was held as part of the Limmud FSU Belarus festival, a festival of Jewish learning, held Sept. 12-14 in Vitebsk, which drew over 600 young Jews, mostly professionals 20-40 years old.
The memorial for Israel’s eleventh prime minister was held in collaboration with the Government of Belarus, the Embassy of Israel, and the local Jewish community, with the participation of Sharon’s son Gilad, and close aide Israel Maimon, who served as his Cabinet Secretary. Marit Danon, the head secretary in Prime Minister’s Sharon’s office, curated the Sharon photo exhibition, which includes photos from the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli government archives and his personal collections. A press conference and meeting with local officials also took place following the event.
“I am very excited to stand here today at the opening of the exhibition on the life of my father,” said Gilad Sharon at the opening ceremony. “My father’s life stations integrated in Israel’s history, and I hope this beautiful exhibition will be another step in deepening the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews, and maybe some of them will go to Israel.”
“It is a great honor for Limmud FSU to host this new exhibition, which is on display here in Belarus, about one of the great leaders of the State of Israel who was born to parents who came from this country last century,” said Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU.
“Ariel Sharon never forgot the legacy of his family and put in great effort to learn Russian and his family’s history. This is why we’ve decided to have this event and exhibition during our Limmud FSU Belarus Festival- to show a wonderful example of a great leader whose roots are here, though his life and activities were in Israel.”
Sharon himself was born in Kfar Malal, an agricultural moshav in central Israel in 1928. He is not the only Israeli with Belorussian roots to be honored in Belarus of late.
Last week, on September 12, a ceremony honoring Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, was held 100 miles north of Minsk in Glubokoe, where Ben Yehua studied Jewish studies. Launched during the second Jewish learning conference in Belarus of Limmud FSU, the ceremony featured the unveiling of a plaque by Ben Yehuda’s great-grandson Gil Hovav, an Israeli celebrity chef. Ben Yehuda immigrated to the land of Israel in 1881, where he worked to revive and modernize the Hebrew language.
“This emphasis helps Jewish and non-Jewish Belorussians connect to Israel and the Jewish people,” Chaim Chesler told the JTA, remarking on Limmud FSU’s priority to underline the cultural links between Israel and Belarus. The Jewish community in Belarus in the third largest in the former Soviet Union, with Minsk serving as the largest center with 20,000 Jews living in the capital and the rest spread out in the country’s smaller cities and towns.
Other Israelis with Belorussian roots include former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir as well as former presidents Chaim Weizmann and Shimon Peres.