WASHINGTON — The Armenian Assembly of America mourns the passing of former Israeli Minister of Education and Member of the Knesset Yossi Sarid, a prominent advocate and supporter of Armenian Genocide recognition in Israel. He passed away on Friday, December 4 at the age of 75.
The Assembly recalls Sarid’s tireless efforts to include the Armenian Genocide in Israeli school curricula and to secure official recognition in Israel. His courage to speak publicly about the need for the government of Israel to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide began the movement toward official recognition.
As Minister of Education, Sarid delivered a ground-breaking speech on April 23, 2000 at the 85th Armenian Genocide anniversary commemoration in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. There he announced his decision to educate the children of Israel about the first genocide of the 20th century. During the commemoration, Sarid stated that he would ensure the Israeli school system teaches “the murder of the Armenian nation” by introducing them to Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.
“I will do everything in order that Israeli children learn and know about the Armenian Genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity and there is nothing more horrible and odious than Genocide,” Sarid said during his speech. “One of the objectives of our education — our main objective — is to instill sensitivity to the harm to the innocent based on nationality alone. We, Jews, as principal victims of murderous hatred are doubly obligated to be sensitive, to identify with other victims.”
A month following his remarks, Sarid reached out to the Assembly and wrote about his education plans. In the May 22, 2000 letter to the Assembly, he wrote “I fully intend to allow Israeli pupils to learn the lessons of your tragedy, which is ours and the world’s, as well. Israelis are the last people who can afford to forget the tragedies of this magnitude.”
Yossi Sarid’s announcement prompted Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) to deliver a statement in the US Congress. “Considering Israel’s vulnerable position in the Middle East and its need to cultivate relations with Muslim nations, the action by Education Minister Sarid was a true profile in courage, a real statement of principle,” Rep. Pallone said on the floor of the US House of Representatives on May 23, 2000.