The documentary Sound of Torture (2013) written and directed by the Israeli filmmaker Keren Shavo, screened in one of the last Research Forum classes, might have many unspoken things. The director chose to follow the Eritrean radio host and human rights activist Meron Estefanos as she reports on Eritrean refugees who have been captured in Sudan while migrating across the Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Keren Shavo does not address the problem of the Israeli official approach to the Eritreans or to refugees in general, or the criminality in the southern part of Tel Aviv. On the other hand, the documentary reminded me why I chose for research the Holocaust.
In order to explain this, I will tell a story. A few years ago, I came to Israel as a young BA student to learn Hebrew. We were five colleagues from Bucharest willing to learn Hebrew better but also to visit and explore Israel a little bit. One day we went to Tel Aviv, to the beach, we enjoyed the sun, the sea, the sunset. We were staying in Jerusalem, so at some point we realized that we need to go back by bus. We asked around and people guided us to a bus station in the southern part of Tel Aviv. We knew nothing about the Eritrean neighbourhood. We just walked in the dark to the bus station. Until we reached what we imagined is Africa – as Maron said in the documentary. But we did not feel joy and happiness as Maron did. We felt fear. We were afraid. I was afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar people walking around without purpose. I was afraid of their music, of their houses with the doors wide open, of their language I could not understand. I knew nothing. I did not see them as people, as individuals. I saw them as Africans. I was using racial denominations when thinking about them and this was beyond my rational mind.
After almost one year in the International MA program, after exploring other genocides as part of different courses I took, and last but not least, after seeing the abovementioned movie, I can say that engaging in Holocaust Studies is not only about research.
Unknown people in an unfamiliar environment, speaking a strange language, not having enough food, enough money, living like in a ghetto. Sound familiar? They could be the Eritreans in the south of Tel Aviv. They could be the African refugees living in different European countries nowadays. They could be the Muslims in Western Europe. They were the Jews during the Holocaust.
It is a pattern and even if the planned idea is not to compare, this pattern can be helpful in understanding that every, but every person has a story. And we just need the patience to listen to it
Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information here.