Today – Thursday – is Yom Hashoah, or as it is referred to, Holocaust Remembrance Day for the Martyrs and the Heroes. The heroes should never be forgotten.
In Israel, the Holocaust is commemorated on a different day on the calendar than elsewhere in the world, and it imparts a singular message: Israel is the place of refuge and focus of strength for Jews.
Here, we collectively honor the memory of the six million. Our connection to them is folded into our national raison d’être.
Last night at an official ceremony held at Yad Vashem, World Holocaust Memorial Center, six survivors lit torches.
The six also shared their stories. Each one is heart-rending. A small child is separated from her mother in Auschwitz. She keeps asking, “Where is my mother?” until someone turns her around and says, “See that smoke? That is where your mother is.”
You can learn more here:
Sometimes the stories are so horrendous that it is difficult to comprehend how anyone could have survived so much and gone on to make a life. But, incredibly, they have. They say, I married here in Israel. We made a good family. I have children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are my joy, and my victory.
Think about it: holding on to enough hope for the future to make a family. Their resilience is a miracle.
As well, they express gratitude to be in Israel, and pride in having helped develop the nation. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who delivered a talk, told of one survivor who said to him, “When I sit in my house here, I feel safe, and I know I have won.”
The prime minister also said during his talk:
“To those who seek our destruction, I say precisely from this place: We have returned to the stage of history, we have returned to the front of the stage, we have defeated our oppressors in the past – and with God’s help – we will defeat you, as well.”
This year the Shoah memories feel more immediate. Horrifying, almost incomprehensible that it should be, but the fact is that what is going on in the world today is reminiscent of the 1930s. All over the world, anti-Semitism is up – often, but not always, in the guise of anti-Zionism.
It is quite incredible, but Antonio Moreira Antunes, the Portuguese cartoonist who drew that virulently anti-Semitic cartoon that the NYTimes ran, defended himself, writing: “What will be the reason why I cannot do a critique of Israeli policy without being immediately categorized as anti-Semitic? I have nothing against the Jews but I have many things against the politics of Israel.”
Also incredible is the fact that after the furor about that cartoon, and the apology from the Times, the newspaper has run another offensive cartoon, this one by Norwegian cartoonist Roar Hagen:
It is obvious that the cultural climate has changed: people feel more freedom to express prejudices and hates that not so long ago were kept hidden – or more freedom to associate with those who express those hates, thereby implicitly endorsing them.
I think, for example, about the fact that just a few years ago, when Barack Obama had his picture taken with the virulently anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, he instructed the photographer to not publicize it, fearing that it would damage his election chances.
Today, Tamika D. Mallory and Linda Sarsour, National Co-Chairs of the Women’s March, which is very widely supported by progressives, openly embrace Farrakhan. What is most disturbing is that for the progressives (including many Jewish progressives, Heaven help us), the praise Mallory and Sarsour lavish on Farrakhan is of little import.
Below: Mallory with Farrakhan:
We see this same phenomenon with the two Muslim members of Congress. It is not their positions – including the blatant anti-Semitism of Ilhan Omer – that shock me as much the support they receive, in politically correct fashion, from other members of the Democratic Party. I have discussed this before and will undoubtedly return to this; but I will not write about it at length here.
I do, however, want to share one picture from Aussie Dave of Israellycool: a painting of a keffiyeh-sporting Rashida Tlaib next to the Capitol building. Please note: the keffiyeh she is wearing is also wrapped around the Capitol. Be very worried, my friends, and very, very vigilant.
On Monday, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who gave her life protecting others during the Poway terror attack, was laid to rest.
Her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye – who had rushed forward when a call for a doctor went out after the attack and then fainted when he saw who it was – spoke about her: “My wife was a person who did so much good in her life. … And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired.
“She had a soul that was greater than any of us ever could believe.”
Below: Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to the right, a grieving Howard Kaye and daughter Hannah to the left:
It has now been reported that when the terrorist’s rifle jammed, he still had 50 unused bullets.
Of course, it is not only in the US that anti-Semitism is on the rise. Every year, immediately before Yom Hashoah, Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry releases a report on anti-Semitism. This year, the report indicates that (emphasis added):
“…violent attacks against Jews spiked significantly last year, with the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades, leading to an ‘increasing sense of emergency’ among Jewish communities worldwide.
“…assaults targeting Jews rose 13 percent in 2018, according to Tel Aviv University researchers. They recorded nearly 400 cases worldwide, with more than a quarter of the major violent cases taking place in the United States.
“But the spike was most dramatic in Western Europe, where Jews have faced even greater danger and threats. In Germany, for instance, there was a 70% increase in anti-Semitic violence.
“…The report also found that anti-Semitism was being promoted actively by government officials in countries on three continents, singling out officials in Venezuela, Turkey, Poland and Ukraine as promoters of hatred of Jews.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, reports that:
“It is now clear that anti-Semitism is no longer limited to the far-left, far-right and radical Islamists triangle — it has become mainstream and often accepted by civil society.”
This last was precisely my observation, above.
Manfred Gerstenfeld, an expert on anti-Semitism, shared an important observation in a piece he has just written called “Secondary anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred related to the Holocaust”:
There is an anti-Semitism in Germany, he explains, that is connected to the collective memory of, and guilt regarding, the Holocaust. We Jews, by our very existence, remind them of their nation’s crimes and guilt.
Declares one German psychiatrist: “Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.” A German psychologist further explains: “If the guilty person is bad, the Jewish victim becomes good. The moment it can be shown [that] the latter (the Jew) is bad too, the other – that is, the European – is relieved of his guilt feelings.”
The enormous influx into Western Europe of Jew-hating Muslim refugees has, quite obviously, fed into and exacerbated this situation.
The 21st Knesset – which includes 49 first-timers – was sworn in on Tuesday, with appropriate ceremony. Yuli Edelstein (Likud) was re-elected, uncontested, as Speaker of the Knesset for his third consecutive term.
President Rivlin, during his remarks at the inaugural ceremony, cited a prayer once offered by Menachem Begin, z”l. It included the following:
“‘May the country profit, and may the people benefit. May hatred and vilification subside and may mutual respect increase. May vindictiveness and spite disappear and may rivalry – sharp, but fair and honorable – take its place…May hard-heartedness be tempered and may comradeship deepen…May there be an end to blandishments, and may civil courage and freedom of thought take their place.”
To this I say a heartfelt Amen!
Below: Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Rivlin to his left and then Speaker Edelstein; behind them are heads of all of the factions and parties
So we have a Knesset, and temporary committee chair assignments are being made. But we do not yet have a new government, and Netanyahu is indicating that it’s tough going. He hopes to finish in the allotted 28 days, but may seek an extension.
May they come together soon, in strength, understanding that a great weight rests upon Israel.
I close with a Koolanu performance. The 600 singers in this video are Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren, singing “Ani ode chai” – I still live. Watch full screen and pay attention to the faces, and the generations.
“How good that hope is not yet lost,” they sing. INDEED.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.