Today was Yom HaShoah VeHaGevurah – Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism. (For there were not only Jewish victims, there were also Jewish heroes.)
Here in Jerusalem, in the wee small hours last night, there was the most incredible prolonged, downpour – the likes of which I have never before experienced. I would like to think that perhaps the Heavens were crying for us.
I cannot permit this day to end without a posting, but will touch upon various subjects only briefly:
Last night at the Holocaust Memorial, Yad VaShem, the official annual ceremony marking the day was held. Every year, there are six survivors selected to light six torches.
Each of the six tells his or her story. Each story tears the heart. I want to share the video of one such story here – the story of Shela Altaraz. Watch the enormous emotion with which she relates her experiences, which are over 70 years old. The pain never goes away:
We may not turn away from this. It is our task to hear her story, absorbing its import and its power.
President Ruby Rivlin spoke at the official ceremony last night.
The core – the ikar – of his message merits attention (emphasis added):
“We cannot let the pogroms, the bellowing smoke of the crematoria blind us or blur our abilities to recognize our past, our identity, our heritage – which is stronger than those who wish to destroy us.”
While the Holocaust is “our lowest point,” we Jews must remember that our journey did not begin in the concentration camps, but in the Land of Israel, and “it is here that [we] have always strived to return.
“The State of Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust.” It was established “out of a love and longing for our ancient homeland by virtue of a dream that came true, a dream that became a reality. Not out of fear of extinction or hatred for the other….
”The horrors of the past and the threats of the present will not dictate our lives nor shape the lives of our children.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also spoke during the ceremonies.
As we would expect, he addressed the threat of Iran and other evil regimes.
The lesson of the Holocaust, he said, was that there is “no room to be weak when faced with tyrannical regimes.” (Emphasis added) The world is “comatose” and delusional” where Iran is concerned. “Appeasement towards these regimes increases their aggressiveness.”
Earlier in the day, he related, he had been told by a survivor that it was his job “to prevent another Holocaust.”
Let it be so! For the world has learned nothing. Truly nothing. And so evil abounds. Not just in Iran, but with Isis, and Hamas, and in Muslim enclaves in certain parts of Europe. Yet the world turns away from the stark realities, and does business with evil.
We reserve the right to defend ourselves against a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu said:
“Even if we are forced to stand alone against Iran, we will not fear. In every circumstance we will preserve our right and ability to defend ourselves.”
Yes! preserve our right and ability to defend ourselves. But it becomes time, I think, to USE that ability.
Three days ago, Russian president, Vladimir Putin announced that he would approve delivery to Iran of the long-range surface-to-air S-300 missile defense system. A contract signed in 2007 to deliver the missiles was frozen in 2010 by Dmitry Medvedev, then president of Russia, in response to pressure brought to bear on him.
And why was Putin now removing the ban on delivery? Because Iran “has shown a great degree of flexibility and a desire to reach compromise.”
Heaven help us.
Exact dates for delivery are still under discussion, according to Reuters.
The missiles would not render an Israeli attack on Iran impossible, but would make it more difficult.
There was a certain amount of hoopla about the unanimous vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee calling for advancement of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). The bill would grant Congress the ability to review the deal currently being crafted by the Obama administration and Iran.
A step in the right direction, certainly, but there still is room for considerable unease. At the last minute, seeing the prospect of a vote large enough to over-ride a veto, Obama declared that he would cooperate and not veto. This is encouraging, of course – as it suggests a shift in the dynamic. (And yes, I do believe Netanyahu’s Congressional talk had an influence on the situation.) But in order to secure Democratic support, there were compromises made. WSJ reviewed the situation with a somewhat jaundiced eye, and, as Arnold Ahlert wrote in FrontPage,
“It remains to be seen whether lawmakers, including those in Obama’s own party, will hold the president accountable for his reckless deal-making…”
I will be returning soon to consider this and related Iran issues in a great deal more detail.
According to a report by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitism rose almost 40% in 2014, over the level of incidents in the previous year.
Said Center president, Dr. Moshe Kantor,
“Many streets in our European cities have become hunting grounds for Jews, and some Jews are now forced to avoid community institutions and synagogues as a result. Some are choosing to leave the continent, many are afraid to walk the streets, and even more are retreating behind high walls and barbed wire. This has become the new reality of Jewish life in Europe.”
This is very sobering indeed.
After a review appropriate for Yom HaShoah, I would like to end on a more upbeat note:
Elbit Systems, an Israel defense company, has announced that it has developed a new system based on sensors that will accurately detect tunnel building. It is to be installed along the entire border with Gaza, and what a relief this will be for the Israeli residents near that border.
“Scientists working in the Technion laboratory of Israeli Nobel Prize winner Professor Aaron Ciechanover have discovered that high concentrations of the chemical KPC1 and protein p50 suppress malignant growth and protect healthy cells.”
“Israeli scientists have come up with a new method to grow grapes all year round, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently announced. The agronomists successfully grew an existing variety of seedless grape known as Early Sweet during winter months.”
Five years after the horrendous earthquake in Haiti, there is still an Israeli presence there:
“IsraAID runs a medical facility, an agriculture program, a youth empowerment center and a gender violence prevention program for Haitian women.”
You see? There is so much good stuff. We must remain resolute and strong, so that we can continue to utilize our skills and expertise in a thousand ways. To be a blessing to the world (if the world knows it or not).
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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