Apr 25, 2006

Yom HaShoah

Today is Holocaust Rememberance Day (in Hebrew: Yom HaShoah). It commemorates the more than 6 million Jews that died in during World War II. It memorializes the innocent victims of Nazi aggression. It also is a day to remember those who died fighting the Nazis. For more information, click here.

Today is a day when Jews around the world light memorial candles, watch movies on the Holocaust, visit memorial sites, discuss the tragedy that befell our people last century. It is also customary to read out the names of those who died.

In Israel, at 10am, a siren rang out around the country for 2 full minutes signaling a moment to bow heads in prayer or silent contemplation or recognition of the deaths of so many.

Another thing that Israeli society does to mark the day is to change the broadcasts for the day. Most television stations have a static screen with "In recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day broadcasts will resume at 7pm tomorrow." messages. If they are broadcasting, they are showing documentaries on the Holocaust or interviews with survivors.

Last night I saw a show on family members that have been reunited in the last year. Can you imagine this: An Israeli woman believed her brother died in the Holocaust 67 years ago only to find in a casual database search at a Holocaust museum that he was alive in Israel and looking for other relatives. They connected 3 months ago and have been almost inseperable. Modern technology is allowing a few special moments like these to happen. It adds some smiles to a decidedly somber day.

The radio stations change their broadcasts too. The music is quiet and melancholy. Certain days of the year in Israel always have sad music. Next week is the Memorial Day for Fallen Israeli Soldiers. The music will change then too. Before the current intifada began, whenever there was a terrorist bombing the music would change too. It really changes the atmosphere. If you missed hearing the news and noticed 3 sad songs in a row, you would be prompted to ask a stranger nearby what happened. A surreal way of learning about death. The stations stopped that practice for terrorist attacks because they became too numerous. There are only so many days in a row that you can listen to the same music. Now the practice is reserved more or less for memorial days.

Whenever I hear Jews talking about the Holocaust I listen what numbers they use when describing the Holocaust. How many people died in the Holocaust? Not 6 million. Whatever the number is, it is greater than that by millions because the Jews were not the only victims of the Nazi horror. They were just the primary victims. Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists and others were murdered in great numbers...even if those numbers still pale compared to the 6 millions Jews. I usually take a minute to contemplate ALL of the dead from the Holocaust on this memorial day. What a tragedy.

Ironically, yesterday was also the Armenian Genocide Memorial Day. I wish that my generation and future one are more successful than older ones in preventing the need for any sort of memorial day. It's not looking good with Darfur...

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