JERUSALEM (AP) – The president of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Israel said he will step down after 27 years on Sunday.
Avner Shalev, 81, said in a letter to Yad Vashem employees that after nearly three decades of “thorough self-examination,” he had made the decision to leave the position. He said he resigned by the end of the year and did not provide further details about his reasons for leaving.
Shalev led a period of dramatic transformation at one of the world’s leading Holocaust remembrance institutions. During his tenure, the site expanded to include a sleek new museum, a hub that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and the Solemn Hall of Names, a collection of 4.8 million names of Holocaust victims, which is a mainstay on visits from foreign dignitaries to Israel.
He also oversaw the creation of an international school for holocaust studies and an institute for holocaust research.
According to his letter, no successor has been appointed.
Yad Vashem is an almost sacred institution in Israel, where students, soldiers and company outings travel regularly and where the country holds its annual Holocaust memorial day ceremony.
Still, it did consider a number of controversies during Shalev’s period.
In 2015, Yad Vashem disputed the veracity of a statement made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a World War II Palestinian leader persuaded the Nazis to adopt their final solution to exterminate 6 million Jews.
It shouted an Israeli-Polish compromise on a Polish law on the hateful language against the Holocaust, saying that a joint statement by the Prime Ministers of the countries contained “grave errors and deceptions” about Poland’s role in the Holocaust.
It also ran counter to a government plan in 2018 to deport tens of thousands of African migrants, saying it saw the issue as a “national and international challenge requiring empathy, compassion and mercy.”
“The experience of the Jewish people across generations increases this obligation,” it said.
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