Monday, April 24, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin
-- From Ha'aretz
The Israeli commemorations of Holocaust Remembrance Day began yesterday evening, with nationally broadcast speeches from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. In my experience the most moving part of the traditional day, observed since 1951, is the two minutes of silence throughout the entire country, accompanied by the sound of air-raid sirens. Every car on the street or highway stops and the occupants stand silently. Any activities, indoors or out, stop, and all people stand silently.

President Reuven Rivlin's speech during last night's ceremony included the following passage:
"Seventy-two years have passed since the flames of hell, of the Auschwitz crematoria, were extinguished. The more time that passes, the fewer the surviving witnesses to the horrors, the older the State of Israel, so our need to deal with how we relate to the Holocaust and to Holocaust remembrance becomes ever more crucial. Ladies and Gentlemen, over the past few decades there have developed two clear approaches to how Israeli society remembers the Shoah, and regards the lessons to be learned from it. The first, is one that deals only with the universal aspects and lessons of the Shoah. The second is one where the Shoah becomes the lens through which we view the world. The first, the universal approach, negates the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a historical event that has no parallel, that happened to us, the members of the Jewish People."
Rivlin provided detailed descriptions of these two approaches and how the Israelis have acted on them. He specified of the first approach:
"Obviously, there are universal lessons to be learned from the Shoah, but denial of the unique nature of the Holocaust of the Jewish People is a historical, national, and educational error." 
He said of the second approach, making the Holocaust a lens for the Israeli worldview:
"According to this approach, the justification for the existence of the State of Israel is the prevention of the next Holocaust. Every threat is a threat to survival, every Israel-hating leader is Hitler. According to this approach, the essence of our collective Jewish identity is escape from massacre by joint means. And the world is divided into two, the “Righteous among the Nations” on the one hand, and anti-Semitic Nazis on the other. And in any case, any criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitism. This approach also is fundamentally wrong, and is dangerous for us a nation and as a people."
He then continued by describing a third approach: not to remain silent "in face of the horrors being committed far away from us, and certainly those happening just across the border."

Articles about the commemorative ceremonies:

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