Just hours before the Trump administration struck Syria on Thursday night, Israel’s former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said that what is happening in the war-torn country is a Holocaust.
“This is certainly a shoah of the Syrian people and it did not start today. For the past six years they have been living in a Holocaust,” Lau said. The word shoah, which means “catastrophic destruction” in Hebrew, is typically used to refer to the Nazi Holocaust, which the rabbi himself survived as a child.
Lau went further, suggesting that Israel, which rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust, now has a special responsibility. As “a nation that has suffered more than any other nation,” he said, Israel must go in and help Syrian civilians, dozens of whom had just been killed in a chemical attack in Idlib. The rabbi has long been vocal about the Syrian war, in which neighboring Israel mostly declines to involve itself militarily, although it has carried out a number of airstrikes.
He’s not the only major spiritual leader to make the Holocaust comparison: Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, likewise called the war in Syria “a small Holocaust” last October.