A day of remembering the heroes and the martyrs here in Israel. Heroes, too, because there were those who resisted.
As the years go, and more of the survivors are gone, the act of remembering with immediacy becomes more difficult. Yet it is forbidden to us to forget. Not just because the six million of our people who were destroyed must be memorialized. But also because we cannot understand what we must confront now and in the future if we allow the memory to fade. We run the risk of being complacent. And that, too, is forbidden to us Jews.
The remembering here in Israel is different, and more intense, more universal, than elsewhere in the world. It is a national mourning, and a national remembering.
Last night there was an official ceremony at Yad Vashem, at which six survivors told their horrendous stories and lit torches. (More on this below.)
At 10:00 AM this morning a siren sounded, and everyone stopped, to remember and to honor:
Here you have Itzhak Perlman playing the theme from Schindler’s list (as he did for the movie itself). Beware, some of the video clips are close to unbearable to see – but must be seen.
Last night at the Yad Vashem ceremony, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke.
From that talk:
”Very few world leaders understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism…
”So I ask: How is it possible that so many people failed to understand the reality? The bitter and tragic truth is this: it is not that they did not see it. They did not want to see it. And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.
“…the leaders of the West operated on the basis of one axiom: avoid another confrontation at any cost, and thus they laid the foundation for the most terrible war in human history. This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost, this axiom was adopted not only by the leaders. The people themselves, primarily the educated ones, shared it too.
“…When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it. And this is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the military build-up of the Nazis…
”Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters,
“Has the world learned from the mistakes of the past? Today, we are again facing clear facts and a tangible threat.
“Iran is calling for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons…it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to threaten the entire world.
“Today, just like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as one that serves domestic purposes. Today, just like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation – a will that should be accepted.
“And just like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake…
“Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave their nuclear capabilities intact. Such a deal, which will enable Iran to be a nuclear threshold state, will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.
“I hope that the lessons of the past will be learned and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.
“In any event, the people of Israel are strong. When faced with an existential threat, the situation of our people today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.
“Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with so many blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. It is a duty I am mindful of at all times, but particularly on this day, in this place...
“Unlike our situation during the Holocaust, when we were like leaves on the wind, defenseless, now we have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission. This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and our security forces.
“On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, to all those who still seek to destroy us: you have failed and you will fail.
“The State of Israel is stronger than ever. It is a state that seeks peace with all its neighbors – a state with a will of iron to ensure the future of its people.
“’The people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion; it will not lie down until it consumes prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.’”
Added by JDU. Where else in he world would you see this
Strong words. Necessary words.
But in the end, the people of the world will not hear his words. Their ears are closed.
And so it will rest to our prime minister to act with all necessary might to keep us safe.
Pray for this, please.
A model of bravery, Hannah Szenes: a soldier who gave her life behind enemy lines during the Holocaust, and a poet. Eli Eli (My God, My God).
Sung by the great Ofra Haza, z”l
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