DVAR ISRAEL: SHABBAT, FEBRUARY 9, 2019
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed this past week. This day was meant for the world to remember the horrors of our people. But if you grow up in Israel, particularly in an Ashkenazi family, it’s impossible to be unaware of the Holocaust. It's about everything in our life. It's in the pictures at home; it's in a chain that Grandma never takes off. It's our names. It is in the family stories that always resonate. It is in the Kiddush cup we use on Saturday night that your grandfather had smuggled out of his synagogue in Poland. It is in your grandmother's behavior in the days leading up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. Holocaust education in the State of Israel is an inseparable part of citizenship, history, and Judaism classes. In Israel, no one learns the definition of the word Holocaust, you just know it since you remember yourself, whether it's from family, or the radio, or even the fact that when you turn on cable TV and there is a black screen saying “no broadcasts due to Holocaust Memorial Day”. It is with you throughout your education, from having to understand in kindergarten why you need to stand quietly during the memorial day siren, to taking part in the grade 6 ceremony at school. All the movies, the stories and the literature ensure that every child in the country understands the meaning of what that horrific part of history did to the Jewish people.
The international community decided that January 27 was a fitting date because that was the date that the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was freed by Allied forces. In 1951, Israel decided that the 29 of Nissan will be the day of Holocaust remembrance in Israel, Yom Ha’Shoah. The date was chosen because this was the date the Warsaw ghetto uprising started. This choice of date is a very political move. The decision was made to illustrate a time during the Holocaust when the Jews showed strength. Back in 1951, the Israeli government wanted to show only the fighting Jew that held weapons and fought the Nazis. Other Holocaust survivors did not factor into Israel’s daily agenda at all. As a young nation, Israel tried as much as it could to show its strength and portray itself as a fearless society, trying to erase the dark and fresh past of the Holocaust. The Sabra myth, of showing the strong agricultural Israeli who defends his country, was the main image the government tried to show to the world and especially Holocaust survivor immigrants. Survivors that chose to speak and tell their story had been met with harsh criticism and were told that they went as "sheep to the slaughter." Israeli society saw these people as weak Jews that did not defend themselves during the war in Europe. Only after the Eichmann trial and the testimonies, did the Israeli government focus on ALL Holocaust survivors, because they realized that every Jew that went through those horrors, is a hero.
Whichever date you chose to mark, and however you choose to remember, the key is to remember the horror, never forget and to rise up in the future. Am Yisrael Hai! Shabbat Shalom.