- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

Peace, from Sarajevo
In this time of political and religious conflict, it feels odd to seek a soothing image from, of all places, Bosnia-Herzegovina. But there it is.
Last week a priceless piece of often-moved Jewish history was displayed for the first time in its new permanent home.
The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated holy book dating to the 14th century, was formally returned last Monday to Bosnia's National Museum. Local officials described the illuminated book as a symbol of Bosnia's multicultural history, as well as one of tolerance and interfaith cooperation.
"This is a great cultural event, not only for the Jewish community in Bosnia and Herzegovina but for all nations and citizens," Jakob Finci, a prominent Jew in the region, said at the ceremony. Noting that the holy book was repeatedly saved by non-Jews, he added: "This proves that people lived here together for centuries, and not that they waited for centuries only to destroy each other."
The 14th-century Hagaddah a book of the rituals, biblical stories, prayers and psalms celebrating the Passover is thought to have been created in Spain for the marriage of an aristocratic couple. It was brought to Sarajevo by Spanish Jews seeking sanctuary after the purges of 1492.
There it stayed for centuries, the pride of a Jewish community that was largely Spanish in origin.
When the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, the Hagaddah was saved from German soldiers by a Croat and a Muslim who hid it in a nearby village until the war ended.
During Bosnia's brutal 1992-95 war of secession, the Muslim-led government moved the Haggadah to safety in the vaults of the central bank after the museum was bombarded by Bosnian Serb forces.
Over the years, the famous illustrated book has inspired photo essays, literary meditations, a "Nightline" broadcast and even songs by Klezmer revival bands.
It is fitting, said speakers at the ceremony last Monday, that the Hagaddah is exhibited alongside valuable manuscripts of the same period from Bosnia's other faiths Islam and the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.
Governments and individuals paid about $120,000 to restore and display the Hagaddah, through a U.N. trust fund established for the purpose.
Gen. Jacques Klein, head of the U.N. Mission in Bosnia, said in an interview last month that it was surprisingly easy to get donations for the fund.
"All we had to do was explain the project, the Jewish history of the area and the importance of religious tolerance in Europe," he said, "and they gave us what we asked for."
At the dedication ceremony last week, Gen. Klein said the Hagaddah is finally home and safe.
"It remains the symbol of hope, of tolerance, a symbol of Sarajevo that has endured."
MONUC force doubled
The U.N. Security Council last week authorized doubling the size of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (known as MONUC, its initials in French), a sign of growing confidence in the complex and somewhat fitful peace efforts there.
The council authorized an increase to 8,700 peacekeeping troops and observers, up from 4,240.
Most of the new Blue Helmets and military observers will be deployed in phases in the eastern part of the country that had been largely under the control of Rwandan troops. They will mostly assist in the disarmament, demobilization and repatriation of Congolese troops.
The vote Thursday was briefly delayed when the United States tried to add language to the resolution that would shelter U.S. troops in Congo from the reach of the International Criminal Court. There are no U.S. troops in the vast Central African nation, and the other council members rebelled.
Since October, about 24,000 Rwandan troops remnants of the ethnic Hutu army and some militias who fled Rwanda after perpetrating the 1994 genocide there withdrew from eastern Congo. Ugandan, Zimbabwean and Angolan troops have also returned from Congo to their own countries, according to independent monitors.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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