«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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A Jewish Community center will be built in Babiy Yar (or near it) in Kiev. Joint has taken the decision, construction is funded by an anonymous sponsor. A construction site is chosen to meet sponsors wish to show a renaissance of the Jewish life. The Jewish community itself has been presented with a fait accompli.

This sounds absurd but this is so. Babiy Yar, one of the most awful symbols of Catastrophe, shall become a place to hold different public events with a cafe, recreational complex and clubs.

Isnt it clear concerts are forbidden in the communal cemetery, they dont visit a cafe walking between nameless graves, recreational procedures are not conducted in a building standing on unburied bones? The fact all these events will be Jewish ones is twice absurd.

If they were going to build here, for example a Russian or Gypsy community center oh, how many angry (and just!) words the Jewish public would pronounce, what meetings would be held in protest against a cynical anti-Semitic action! In effect, bones of Jews, and Russians, and Ukrainians, and Gypsies are intermixed in the hecatomb of Babiy Yar. How can the Jewish community accept its own Community center be built on these bones?

Notions in the Yar or near the Yar are too approximate because nobody knows for sure where a layer of sand and pulp hides human remains. The Jewish tradition forbids building anything in the place graves are likely to be found. The Soviet power didnt, naturally, care for a Jewish tradition. It was not particularly partial about other traditions, too The old Lukyanovka cemetery went under the building of party archives. The TV-tower is here, the building of a TV-center They have already tried to build over Babiy Yar proper, liquid mud has already been poured over bones of the victims. The earth itself retaliated to this blasphemy with a Kurenyovka tragedy. Isnt that enough?

Babiy Yar is not a place to build something: Neither is a spot the monument stands on nor where it should have stood, neither next to it nor in the vicinity. This is a ZONE OF DEATH. This locality should be declared memorial, and any construction here must be completely forbidden but for plaques.

How will Joint and the unknown benefactor accept this? Well Joint is simply an organization distributing donations. This is a mighty, respectable organization with its leadership, staff and own interests. Like all others, it is not insured against misunderstandings and mistakes. If Joint makes a mistake we should explain this rather politely but very firmly. Since the price of this mistake is much higher than ambitions of separate leaders and organizations they head, higher even than ten million dollars. The price, in this case, is dignity and self-respect of the Jewish community of Ukraine, historical memory and pain of the Jewish people.

Galina Khazar
Jerusalem, Israel

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