Address by the President of the House, Mr Demetris Syllouris, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Cyprus Israel Friendship Monument
It is with deep emotion that we have gathered here today, to witness the inauguration of the commemorative plaque by our dear President of the State of Israel, Mr Reuven Rivlin. This event marks 70 years since the closure of the detention camps in Cyprus that held Israeli migrants on their way to Palestine during the period 1946-49 and honors the friendship between the peoples of Israel and Cyprus.
The site chosen for this commemorative plaque is rich with symbolism and messages as we are surrounded by the memories and stories of dozens of children who were born here, in the then British Military Hospital, in the midst of their parents’ Odyssey towards the Promised Land.
It was in 1946, in the aftermath of the Second World War, that thousands of Holocaust survivors aspired for a new beginning after the traumatizing experiences of the war. At the time, the only light in the tunnel seemed to come from this long and hard journey that would take them to British administered Palestine and Jerusalem.
Many people, distraught, who had seen their families and entire communities wiped out, felt a strong urge to return to their historic homeland; they were encouraged by the prospect of the establishment of a new state, that would be theirs.
In their efforts to halt the flow of illegal - as they were called - migrants towards Palestine, the British colonial authorities established camps for the temporary detention of these Jewish people, in Ammochostos, Larnaka and Dhekelia.
The people of Cyprus provided the only source of comfort to the many hardships those persons endured. They also offered solidarity and support, as the Cypriots themselves were experiencing the yoke of British colonial rule.
Today these camps no longer exist and hard evidence of these encounters have been lost. However, that which does live on: the memories, the history and the ties forged between the peoples of Cyprus and Israel, through their humanity and shared aspirations. It is these elements that established the foundations for the development of the excellent relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Cyprus that stand as two functional and stable democracies in the turbulent area of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The cooperation between our countries - that spans from tourism, agriculture, health, science and technology and the environment, to the more recent, exploration and development of energy sources in our region - could not have blossomed to this extent without the human factor and the close relations our peoples developed over the years. It is indeed this human bond that has permeated our relations and has allowed each side to better understand the sensitivities, priorities and goals of the other.
For the Cypriot people, Israel was and remains a good neighbour, a stable partner and an honest friend. Together, devoted and committed to our goals, our peoples can pursue our common vision for the volatile area of the Eastern Mediterranean region that other peoples of the area also share; one of lasting peace, stability, security and prosperity.
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