This morning air raid sirens will go off throughout HLC (Holy Land Central) signaling the country’s 5 million or so Jews to stop whatever they’re doing and observe a moment of silence and prayer in remembrance of the 6 million or so Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
It’s been 9 years since I’ve been here for Yom Ha’Shoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) but undoubtedly the same enveloping bubble of sorrow that descends when the sirens wail will overtake again. Regardless of venue – public or within the private confines of home – the throat knot lodges in place daring the tears to flow.
My first year in Israel I was enrolled in Tel Aviv University’s overseas program. My college experience was sort of backwards – freshman rather than 3rd year abroad. My dorm-mate at the time, Janice from Long Island, had somehow slipped under the radar and was unawares of the Holocaust memorial date. So when the sirens went off and people stopped mid-stream in their tracks while walking down the street or braked their vehicles, got out and stood silently on thoroughfares with heads hanging, she panicked. Janice thought the country had been overtaken by aliens who had established mind control over the entire population. Janice was say into Sci-Fi.
Aside from the larger meaning, the memorial anniversary date was chosen by Israel’s Knesset in 1951 to mark the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when Polish Jews defied German forces planning to evacuate them to Treblinka. The battle lasted 27 days and resulted in deaths of 300 German troops and 7,000 resistance fighters. It is considered a high point in Jewish history.
I exit this posting with yet another P.J. O’Rourke quote. Generally quite humorous, O’Rourke also pulls out salient poignancy when necessary.
What could cause more hatred and bloodshed than religion? This is the Israel question. Except it isn’t rhetorical; it has an answer. We went to Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial, and saw what the godless get up to. There are worse things than war…