28th April, 2022
27 לחודש ניסן, 5782
יום הזיכרון לשואה Holocaust Remembrance Day
Never Again? Really? Never again yet as I stood on the veranda with Zvi at 10:00 this morning, whereas in the past every car stopped, not a person moved, during the 2 minute siren which wailed over the whole of Israel. This morning it was only 50%, many cars just kept going on the highway. One cannot say they didn’t hear or didn’t know because the siren was on the radio, all around us. Either the drivers didn’t relate to the Shoah or even worse, they feel it is in the past, gone and forgotten. In a Jewish world where what is happening in Ukraine is equated with the Shoah in too many communities it is not surprising that our children and grandchildren do not relate. The Survivors of the purgatory that was the Concentration Camps are passing away and their stories are untold for most. Never again? I’m not so sure.
“Never Again” is so banal, in fact it really means nothing since it is happening again, over and over again anti-Semitic louts around the world see fit to beat up Jews, or should I say “Obvious Jews”. What an odious expression that allows complacent Jews to join in the derision toward fellow Jews who dress differently. The Jews who are at the forefront and it has nothing to do with their mode of dress or their beards and earlocks or payis or payot….It’s irrelevant what you call their hats, skullcaps or long coats, they are you and me. It has once again become socially acceptable to deride and harm Jews, so what does never again mean? How can we expect those thugs to respect “Obvious Jews” when too many of our own deride them and speak of religious or observant Jews with disdain.
As I write to you there is a memorial ceremony in the Knesset called “To Each Person a Name” Members of Knesset, including the PM, the former PM and Speaker of the Knesset all stood and read out names of their family members who were killed, murdered in the most organised and cold-blooded manner imaginable. Whether from Thessaloniki, Tripoli, Bialystok, Lodz or Paris, each had lost many of their family, leaving only their parents to continue the family. Former Minister Ofir Akunis ended his horrifying litany of family members lost to the Nazi death machine and whereas the others all said “May their souls be blessed” he added “I will not forgive nor forget”
This is a week of mourning which changes to joy. The mourning continues with the deep sadness of young lives lost in the constant fight against terror since well before Independence. Yes I know everyone thinks that the terror is a consequence of the founding of the State of Israel but it began long before, the killing in the Arab riots of 1920, 1929 and 1936. 1929 in which 133 Jews were slaughtered and over 300 injured, mostly in Hebron. In those riots the British evacuated the Jews of Jenin for their own safety but you will never here of the Jewish community of Jenin and the fact that they never saw their homes again. The joy? Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut. After the solemn ceremonies both at the Western Wall and the Mount Herzl Cemetery, in fact military cemeteries throughout Israel of which there are just too many; parents visiting of graves of their children and children the graves of their parents; a day of absolute mourning with sirens and silence both evening and morning and suddenly, in a flash, Mount Herzl becomes a ceremony of jubilation, song, joy and fireworks! We know how to mourn but we also know how lucky we are to have our own country and to whom we owe the enormous privilege of a Jewish Home.
Hatikva – The Hope, is Israel’s National Anthem. Hope, that belief that the future will always be better; Hope, Tikva, which helped those who survived the horrors of the Shoah to lead wonderful lives here in the land of hope. The young men and women of the IDF are the future of Israel and of the Jewish people as they go forward into the world with a confidence that past generations never attained. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQCu9kl68Tg
Incredibly, one Survivor, aged 90, served as godfather (Sandak) at the Brit Milah of his 49th great-grandchild this week. That is true vengeance of the sweetest kind – to survive insurmountable evil and thrive here in Israel.
Last week the European Union requested a debate between www.impact.se CEO Marcus Sheff (with Arik Agassi) and the Palestinian Minister of Education concerning the Palestinian refusal to improve their textbooks, refusal to remove hate and introduce tolerance in education. The Palestinian Minister Awartani backed out at the last moment, leaving just Marcus to present the argument for Tolerance in Education, citing the success of Impact-se with many countries in the MENA region. Despite two virulently anti-Israel Members of the UN the members listened carefully to the presentation and are now contemplating demanding changes in the Palestinian curriculum or they will face defunding.
After the loneliness of Pesach with Corona we have made up by having non-stop visitors – in other words taking advantage of our temporary immunity! Ira and Valeri with Tomer and Shelly came for the second chag of Passover once Zvi and I had tested negative for Covid; as Passover ended we visited two Mimounah celebrations in our little neighbourhood amazed as always by the incredible display of sweet Moroccan nutty delicacies, stuffed sweetened fruits and delicious home-made muflettas, fried in butter and soaked in honey. Considering that Zvi is diabetic and I have a nut allergy it was a visual delight although I ate a couple of muflettas! We had a fabulous, if short visit from my wonderful friends Judith and Marcus Hallside and yesterday tried out a new restaurant in Kiriat Anavim for breakfast with friends – it was absolutely yummy. Last evening Zvi, together with Dr. Motti Friedman and pianist Ronit Banit performed in an Assisted Living home in Jerusalem. They sang beautiful songs in Yiddish to the delight of the audience, accompanied by Hassia who sang beautifully. Among the audience was out lovely friend Prof. Gabby Barkay who many of you know as one of Israel’s foremost archaeologists. Today our friend Carmen came for lunch after an emotional visit, with Zvi, to the Hadassah Hospice where our dear friend Frida is spending her last days.
It is appropriate that just before Holocaust Remembrance Day each building in our complex is displaying an Israeli flag. This country is so much more than just a country, more than a refuge, more than a haven, more than the most argumentative and innovative population, argumentative because now we can! Politicians may try to split us into sectors, and leaders may try to split us into sects but this is home! It makes me furious when I am told by young Jews that they don’t relate to Israel as in this report in the Jerusalem Post “1/4 American Jewish millennials distance themselves from Israel” https://m.jpost.com/diaspora/article-705059/amp. They don’t have to love us, they don’t have to come here if they don’t fancy but they don’t relate? They will never see the incredible beauty of this country, its spiritual history, its innovation, it’s fun side and serious side and most of all they will not find out that what they see on the news bears no relationship to what Israel is. Israel was not formed out of the ashes of the Holocaust, but perhaps the guilt of too many nations who knew of the horrors taking place under their yes but did nothing or took too long to enter the War, caused their vote and Israel’s ratification through the UN.
I hope you don’t object to my rambling but then most of you are used to it! Today there are movies about the Shoah, stories from Survivors and their families and music, sad music. Next Tuesday night and Wednesday photographs of the young faces of those killed in fighting and by terrorism will be on a constant display on our televisions, again stories of bravery and most of all music, sweet, sad Israeli music.
Before the music I almost forgot to tell you about the well-deserved nomination for Danny Adeno Abebe’s book From Africa to Zion has been nominated for a major literature prize https://www.amazon.com/Africa-Zion-Danny-Adeno-Abebe/dp/9652012866
Just as the IDF choir sang Hatikva, so on the first Shabbat after the 15th of April 1945 when the British Troops liberated Bergen Belsen, the survivors sang Kiddush and then, spontaneously, they sang Hatikva https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWOkML4A8sU The words have changed because now we sing about a Jewish country that exists, not just the dreams of a broken people.
Ein Li Eretz Aheret – I have no other country – is one of the most beautiful songs of Israel. This beautiful rendition by many Israeli singers is so emotive I had to give it to you even though it is in Hebrew. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtR6HF3MQKw The lyrics by Ehud Manor carry a deeply important message that even though this country has gone through many changes, we have no other country. The chorus is
“I have no other country, even if my land is aflame
Just a word in Hebrew pierces my veins and my soul –
With a painful body, with a hungry heart,
Here is my home”
Since you love the music I want to give you one more song. Heveinu Shalom Aleinu – We brought Peace Among us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d_i2F2LlF8 Jewish and Moslem artists singing together in a prayer for peace
I wish you a Shabbat Shalom and pray that the world has learned a lesson. That lesson is one of Tolerance, of empathy, of understanding that we are all different and that is the beauty of mankind
With much love from Jerusalem