Israel opens embassy in Albania

(JTA) – Twenty-one years after establishing diplomatic relations with Albania, Israel has opened an embassy in that country. 

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, attended the opening in Tirana and said it was “especially festive,” according to Israel’s foreign ministry. He cited the fact that Albania had a 70 percent Muslim population and NATO membership status.

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1991.

“The new embassy means that Israel will be able to play a bigger role in the revival of the Jewish communities of the Balkans and play a bigger role in interfaith dialogue,” Yoel Kaplan, chief rabbi of Alabania, told JTA. 

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha gave Kaplan, who is a Chabad emissary in Thessaloniki, Greece, the title of Albania’s chief rabbi in 2010. Albania has a Jewish community of about 200 people. 

During the Holocaust, Albania was under Italian and later German occupation. During World War II, the country’s Jews were not murdered by the Nazis in part due to their fellow non-Jewish countrumen. Hundreds of Jews from neighboring countries fled to Albania, making it one of the few nations in Europe where the Jewish minority grew during the Holocaust.

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