The faces staring at the photographs on the walls of Yad Vashem were black, the faces staring back were white, but the pain that united them knows no color.
A group of African refugees, most from Sudan’s murder-ridden Darfur region, toured Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial center this week, where they were welcomed by Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem’s chairman, and learned the story of a genocide that preceded theirs, at the hands of an Islamic regime, by more than a half-century.
For many of the visitors it was their first time in a museum.
One Sudanese man, who identified himself only as G., said he looks forward to a similar place of remembrance being built in his homeland one day. “I hope there will be such a place in the future,” he said, “but I don’t know when. Maybe in another generation far from our own.”
Walking with the group in silence through Yad Vashem’s exhibits, G. said, “It’s such a sad history, tears fell from my eyes. It made me remember things that happened in my own past” — his parents and two siblings were murdered by Arab militiamen raiding his family’s village.
Like many of the several hundred Sudanese refugees who have crossed into Israel via Egypt in recent years, G. is seeking asylum in Israel.
The visit to Yad Vashem was sponsored by the Committee for the Advancement of Refugees from Darfur, an Israeli organization that assists the refugees.
“It is important that you already begin to think about ways to remember the events and memorialize the victims,” Shalev told the visitors. “As Jews, who have the memory of the Shoah embedded within us, we cannot stand by as refugees from genocide in Darfur are knocking on our doors.”
Last year, after months of public debate, Israel decided to grant residency to some 500 Sudanese refugees.