It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today at the site of the monument dedicated to the Jewish holocaust survivors who found temporary refuge in Cyprus on their way to their homeland after the end of the Second World War.
This monument serves as a permanent testament to the long standing Cypriot-Israeli friendship and close people to people ties that were forged in the period 1946-1949, when Cypriots provided as much help as possible to Jewish refugees stranded in internment camps in Cyprus over a period of three years.
The last internment camp closed its gates in February 1949. Given the historical importance of this chapter we decided that this memorial event takes place on an annual basis, in the month of February, for paying tribute to the Cypriot-Israeli bonds of friendship. Anyone who gets to know and realise the herculean efforts made by thousands of Israelis to reach their homeland after the Second World War can then understand and appreciate the strength and resilience of Israel.
The presence of more than fifty thousand Jews in Cyprus that fled Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War to reach their homeland is a history that worth’s to be told and to be known by younger and future generations.
Το that end the contribution of the Ministry of Defence and of the National Guard, through the establishment of this monument site, within the former Military Hospital, which was the birthplace of more than two thousand Jewish children, is mindful to the cause of preserving history.
The abhorrent Holocaust was followed by its survivors long and arduous journey to Israel faced with many obstacles in the way. For three years, from 1946 until February 1949 when the various internment camps closed, many Cypriots made every effort to ease and alleviate the hardships of daily life for the stranded Jewish refugees living in the camps in Karaolos, Xylotymymbou and Dhekelia or even helping them to escape and reach Israel. Many Cypriots often made the extra mile for offering help and assistance with exemplary sense of humanitarianism and compassion.
We are gratified that today, we have with us relatives and descendants of families from the village of Derinia that provided a helping hand and provided every possible support to the stranded Jewish refugees on their way to Eretz Israel.
Close personal friendships and people to people links between Cypriots and Jews were established. The fact that more than two thousand babies were born in Cyprus also created an umbilical link between our two countries.
Many personal stories from ordinary Cypriot people have since then emerged and thanks to the younger generation of Cypriot researchers, this important aspect of our bilateral relation is helpful for raising awareness and informing our respective Diaspora organisations.
I was honoured to have served over the past two and half years as Minister of Defence. Allow me to say that, I take huge pride for the level, depth and robustness of our defence and military partnership with the State of Israel.
On a more personal level allow me to say that my commitment to the Cypriot-Israeli defence cooperation was throughout unwavering.
I feel particularly pleased for the fact that we were able to advance significantly our strategic defence cooperation and partnership in all areas and levels including high level consultations and armaments.
Our defence cooperation with Israel is unique and a thriving one which every year reaches new heights, as demonstrated by the large scale Exercise AGAPINOR last June. We have a strategic defence cooperation based on mutual trust and shared interest for the security and prosperity of our region which I am hopeful that it will become stronger in the future.
Once again, thank you all for attending this solemn event and for your kind attention.