I once spent a while in the company of some Kosovar Albanians, they were refugees seeking asylum in The Netherlands. They struck me as very lovely people with a simple outlook on life and a sense of joie-de-vivre in spite of their dire situation.
In the years since meeting them, I have discovered a little more about the unique character of the people of Albania, they really are an unusual nation and Albania is a rather special, little known country. And one that I hope to visit some day.
Albanians saved hundreds of Jewish people during the War, taking in refugees and sheltering them, defiantly refusing to co-operate with the occupying Germans.
In World War II, not a single Albanian Jew was turned over to the Germans.
Albania was the only country in Europe to have more Jews after the War than before.
And the remarkable fact is that Albania is predominantly a Muslim country.
Muslims saving Jews. Who'd have thought...?
And indeed we also see Jews saving Muslims in today's world. Israel frequently offers shelter and medical treatment to fleeing Syrian refugees.
While it's true that there is often-times an Islamic claim behind the majority of terrorist attacks today, perhaps not everything in the world is always quite as the media would have us believe.
This is from the Yad Vashem, (World Holocaust Remembrance Centre) website:-
“...Albania, the only European country with a Muslim majority, succeeded in the place where other European nations failed. Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation, those of Albanian origin and refugees alike, were saved, except members of a single family. Impressively, there were more Jews in Albania at the end of the war than beforehand.”
Has the world changed so much since then? Perhaps the answer is yes, and alas if that is the case then we are doomed to a world of mistrust and suspicion.
As a Jew, I am well aware of the irrational hatred towards people of my faith and precisely because of this I am not going to try to judge the majority of others based on the actions of a few. That too would be irrational, no?
The Albanian Muslims saved the Albanian Jews and proved that compassion is unconditional.
My hope is that we will always find a glimmer of such compassion in even the most difficult and terrible of times.
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