Remembering the Holocaust and Heroism in Israel: Am Yisrael Hai!

Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel – April 12th, 2010

Today at 10:00 Israel stood still.

The sirens wailed, not to warn of incoming missiles – this time, like every year, it was the gut wrenching cry: “Remember the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust. Know that you have risen from their ashes.”

Every year sirens across the country go off at the same time. Everyone, no matter where they are, does the same thing – stands, silently, until the sirens stop (2 minutes).

This year was the first time I was in a car when the sirens began. All cars stop, everyone gets out and stands, wherever they are. The traffic lights go from green to red and back again. No one moves. Birds fly overhead; the sun shines and the people are silent.

There is no way to sufficiently encompass the horrors that were, the traumas that burden the first, second and third generations.

It is next to impossible to comprehend the enormity of the miracle that is the State of Israel.

Today Jews in Israel can drive freely, in their nice cars, go where they please. It was their parents and grandparents who were evicted from their homes, stuffed into cattle cars and taken to starve, freeze or be burned to death in concentration camps.

In Israel this Memorial Day is called the “Day of Remembering the Holocaust and Heroism”. There were heroes who fought the Nazi’s, leading revolution against the oppressors. There were those who saved the lives of friends, family and strangers. All these we admire and commemorate.

There is one more kind of heroism. It is silent and modest. And it is the backbone of this country. As I stood, listening to the sirens, I reflected on this heroism and as the siren wail washed over me I felt tears brim in my eyes, ready to spill over.

People whose entire families were wiped of the face of the earth – parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters tortured and murdered – came to Israel and created new families.

And had lots of children.

People whose babies were ripped from their arms knew their hearts could never be mended but they did their best to patch them, creating new children that they loved with a ferocity that matched the horrors that were pitted against them in Nazi Europe.

They who suffered unimaginable misery strove to create happiness. And they succeeded.

This is their revenge. Jews walking proudly through the gates of Auschwitz as participants in the March of the Living.

Today their grandchildren walk proudly through the gates of Auschwitz as participants in the March of the Living.

Israeli soldiers stand in that place of horrors and fly the Israeli flag, their uniforms a testament to the power of the Jewish people – no longer helpless. The flag the symbol of the Jewish homeland, rebuilt.

This is more than heroism – it is a miracle.

Am Yisrael Hai – the Nation of Israel Lives!

4 thoughts on “Remembering the Holocaust and Heroism in Israel: Am Yisrael Hai!

  1. Dear Friend,

    You have shared a heartfelt and compelling article; thank you. Israel is a proverbial Pheonix from the ashes if I’ve ever seen one. And even though I am not Jewish and am in Texas a very long way from Israel, I stand with you in your two minutes of silence, with a heartfelt “Never Again”

    PS: also enjoyed your flickr photostream, especially the one about the IDF soldiers playing with the Palestinian child. The world needs to see more of those kinds of things.


  2. Dear Forest

    Your mother suggested that I will read your post and I am so thankful that she did
    Your writing touched my heart very deep inside
    The way you described the wailing siren was dramatic
    and I could just hear your voice telling it and the way you desribed your reflection on the day
    You have a way with words just this sentence ”Birds fly overhead; the sun shines and the people are silent.
    Is so powerful because it is the essence of the moment that other people may felt but few could describe it the way you did
    best regards


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