(JTA) — Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said “a small holocaust” was taking place in Syria.
At an interreligious meeting with Palestinian Muslim clerics hosted by President Reuven Rivlin, Yosef said the world must not be silent in the face of the atrocities taking place in the country that has been consumed by civil war since 2011, The Times of Israel reported.
“Every day not far from here, as we sit here, men, women and children are murdered in Syria, and particularly in Aleppo,” Yosef said at the meeting. “Millions of refugees are homeless, hundreds of thousands of others are starved, under siege. They are not our friends, but they are human beings who are suffering a small holocaust.”
Yosef said that particularly Jews, who endured the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million people as “the world looked on and remained silent,” must not do so now. In describing the civil war in Syria, Yosef used the Hebrew-language word for the Holocaust, “shoah.” Depending on how it is used in a sentence, the word can mean the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazis or an unspecified calamity or major catastrophe.
“As Jews we must not stay silent,” the chief rabbi said. “The call must be heard from here: A genocide will not be allowed to go by quietly — not in Syria and not anywhere else, and not against any people.”
At the meeting Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders issued a call against religiously inspired violence.