Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is here yet again. It is commemorated on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan which happened to fall between April 18-19, 2012 (days "begin" at sundown and "end" the next day at sundown). The day begins with a ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel's tribute to the Holocaust, where the flag is lowered to half mast, the President and Prime Minister deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches in honor of the 6 million who perished and prayers are recited.


The following day, the somber mood continues. Last year, my ulpan held a "tekes", or ceremony, for the occasion. This year, I find myself sitting inside the hospital, waiting out what has turned into a high-risk pregnancy. Still, the annual commemoration took place even inside hospital walls. 




Above is a video of the Yom HaShoah siren, which brings all of Israel to a silent standstill on this annual day. At 10 am, the loud sirens blare, and no matter where you are - driving on the road, in the middle of class, inside the hospital or in a restaurant - the world comes to a standstill. For a full minute, tears are shed and people stand in unison as we remember the 6 million who were lost. Any of us who are alive today are here because of an ancestor who was able to survive that horrific period of time. It always baffles me, imagining the sheer number of people lost and how many more would have been here today.

    

Also on this day, the annual March of the Living takes place, which brings thousands of students from around the world to a living march from Birkenau to Auschwitz in commemoration of those who were lost. Led by Holocaust survivors, it is an emotional and life-changing experience for young people. There won't be too many years left that actual survivors will be able to lead the way.

   



At night, all places of public entertainment are closed by law and regular TV programming is canceled, replaced by tributes to the Holocaust and relevant documentaries. It is a somber day, but one that is very symbolic of Israeli culture. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you will take a minute to remember all whom were lost and pray that such a tragedy never befalls the world again.

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