Israeli President Reuven Rivlin along with the President of the Cypriot Parliament and Cypriot Presidential Commissioner revealed a plague commemorating the 2,200 Jewish children born in Cyprus to Jewish Holocaust survivors detained in Cyprus between 1946 – 1949.
The plague at the Cyprus – Israeli Monument was revealed as February this year marks 70 years since the closure of British detention camps on the island for Jews trying to reach Palestine after World War II.
In his address, Rivlin said the people of Cyprus were generous and brave to their support for the Jews, recalling that a Cypriot, Kostakis Tsangaris, helped Jewish prisoners to dig an escape tunnel out of the camp and took them to Famagusta to board a ship towards Palestine, then under British mandatory rule.
“I thank the people of Cyprus, I thank the people of Cyprus from the bottom of my heart, as a Jew as an Israeli and as the President of Israel, I thank them for many many years of brave of friendship and I wish our two countries many more years of friendship and cooperation,” he said, adding that when the camps were closed Cypriots bid farewell to the Jewish people that took the route to their homeland.
“We are two small countries facing similar challenges with similar values and thank God we are doing well, values that respect humanity that love people whoever they are,” he went on to say.
On his part, Demetris Syllouris, President of the House of Representatives, said the detention camps may not exist today, but what live on are memories, the history and the ties forged between Cyprus and Israel through their humanity and shared aspirations.
“It is these elements that established the foundation for the development of the excellent relations between the State of Israel and Cyprus that stand as two functional and stable democracies in the turbulent area of the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
Photis Photiou, Presidential Commissioner, said in his address that “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.”
“Today, the dynamic relationship between Cyprus and Israel is one of a strategic partnership,” he noted, adding 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.
According to data, from 1946 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the British detained over 53,000 Jewish deportees, primarily European Holocaust survivors and refugees in 12 detention camps in the then under British Colonial rule, Cyprus. The camps remained operational until February 1949.
The monument is situated in the area where the British Military Hospital was located in Nicosia. In 1947 the BMH housed a 100-bed Jewish Wing following the detention of “illegal” Jewish immigrants intercepted en route to Israel.
Signing a book opened for the occasion, Rivlin wrote “Here, at the British Military Hospital in Nicosia, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust on their way to a new life in the State of Israel were treated with care and respect and a new generation was born with hopes of a better world.”