Speech by the Presidential Commissioner, Mr Photis Photiou, honoring the President of the State of Israel, Mr Reuven Rivlin
It is a true honor and a pleasure to welcome President Rivlin, here, today, at this very special and historical place for all Jewish people, which at the same time has become a very special and historical place for Cypriots as well. The former British Military Hospital (BMH) is the birth place of many Jewish children. As we mark the 73th anniversary of the closing of the prison camps that housed a significant number of Holocaust survivors, we humbly pay our tribute to those who escaped from the mayhem and the despicable atrocities that took place in Europe before and during the World War II.
This is a historical day. We have just unveiled a plaque commemorating the 2200 Jewish children in the camps to holocaust survivors after internment began in 1946.
Between August 1946 and May 1948, the British government intercepted nearly 53,000 Holocaust survivors seeking to resettle in British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. They interned these survivors in detention camps established in Cyprus.
The Cyprus detainees sailed on 39 ships from ports in France, Italy, and the Balkans following long and difficult journeys from the detention camps in central and eastern Europe. Approximately, 80 percent of the detainees were aged 12 to 35, while 8,000 were between the ages of 12 and 18; the majority of them being orphans. During those nearly 22 months, approximately 2200 babies were born in the Cyprus camps. Now in their early 70’s, some of them are here today with us to pay homage to the struggle of their people for a life without indecency and suffering.
And it is true that, for most of those survivors interned on Cyprus, the experience only served to strengthen their resolve to reach the shores of their homeland. Following the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948, the Cyprus detention camps ceased operation and the detainees made their way to the newly created State of Israel.
During the difficult times of detention of the Jewish people here, the people of Cyprus stood next to them in solidarity and compassion. The interaction between our peoples stretches back to antiquity, an interaction which proved only beneficial and progressed steadily over the years.
Today, the dynamic relationship between Cyprus and Israel is one of a strategic partnership. The continuous interaction between our societies has an evident positive effect especially to our youth, our business circles but also in academia, in culture, and surely our Diasporas around the globe.
In the light of underlying challenges and opportunities, and given the fluid and unpredictable situation in our region, our two countries continue to share the same democratic values, strong family and societal ties and quite similar cultural characteristics.
This monument symbolizes the natural affinity between our peoples who have shared a quest for survival, and a common vision for a stable and secure future.
Your visit today is testament to, and reinforces even further, the sustained, sound and steady growth of our bilateral ties and cooperation in a wide array of areas.
Together, with common vision, coordination and hard work, we can achieve more for the generations to come.
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