Today, May 2, Israel (and the world) celebrates the holiday of Yom Hashoah which translates as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the official Israeli commemoration of the 6 million Jews murdered in Nazi Germany during World War II. Yom Hashoah, though an Israeli creation, is actually observed in Jewish communities worldwide.
This memorial day is observed most emblematically with a national moment of silence. At 10 a.m. (Israel time), blaring sirens are sounded across the country as a cue to drop what you are doing and stand for a full two minutes of utter silence. At this time, while the sirens continue to roar, all cars and all people across the country come to a united stop to stand at contemplative attention until the sirens give way. Busy highways come to a standstill; and stopped buses can be seen filled with standing passengers with their heads bowed down. Only the sound of choked tears and sobs can be heard as we grieve and remember in unison.
During the day, you can also expect Israel's Prime Minister and President to give speeches from Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Holocaust survivors worldwide light memorial candles; flags on public buildings are lowered, TV and radio broadcast somber programming; and venues for public entertainment are closed by law. Specifically, as for TV, you can push your "guide" button on your TV remote to find that every single program for the day has been canceled and replaced with a Holocaust memorial. With the exception of major news networks airing the updated story about Osama Bin Laden's death, the channels are filled with educational documentaries and memoirs pertaining to the Holocaust.
Even over at Auschwitz, the infamous death camp that is now a walkable museum to the atrocities that occurred there, tens of thousands of high school students from Israel, along with Jews and non-Jews from around the world, gather as part of the "March of the Living", an incredible program that is subsidized by the Israeli government. On this program, students (in the company of Holocaust survivors) walk the same steps that the innocent victims of the Holocaust once walked, ending at Auschwitz and participating in the minutes of silence for Yom Hashoah. Clearly, an empowering experience.
So, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, please take a moment today to honor the fallen, the lost generations who will never be (can you imagine....6 million generations lost....makes you wonder where we would be today if those 6 million lives were never lost), and most importantly, pray that the world never sees such atrocities repeated again.