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Honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel

Michael Seiler, from The Fellowship's Jerusalem office, just sent us this summary of how they are honoring Yom HaShoah, Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today the state of Israel marks its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day with ceremonies commemorating the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II.At 10:00 a.m. local time, a two-minute siren blared all across Israel in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. For two solid minutes, people literally stop in their tracks wherever they are, no matter what they're doing. Cars stop in the middle of the highway and the drivers get out and stand silently. City buses stop wherever they are and passengers pile out to remember the victims.The Fellowship’s Israel office also held a memorial ceremony. To the backdrop of six memorial candles and an Israeli flag, the staff gathered and formed a circle. As the siren blared, all stood in silent contemplation.At the end of the siren, Ilia Itkin read the "God, Full of Mercy" prayer:God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the souls of six million Jews, victims of the Holocaust in Europe, North Africa and around the world.Killed, slaughtered, burned and perished in the holy name, by the murderous Nazis and their collaborators from other nations.And in memory of Holocaust survivors who have died over the years in agony of body and soul.Therefore, the Merciful One will protect them on the wings of the Divine Presence forever, and will merge their souls with eternal life.The Everlasting is their heritage, may Paradise be their resting rest, and they shall stand in their fate at the end of days, and let us say: Amen.Daniella Solomon then read the "Remembrance" prayer:May God remember all the souls of all the communities of the House of Israel in the European Diaspora which were raised on the altar during the Holocaust of 1940-1945.Six million men and women, boys and girls, young men and maidens, old and young, who were killed and who were murdered in terrible brutality and killed in mass murder in their places of residence in cities, small towns, and villages, and the rest were taken to concentration camps and died in terrible deaths, and were incinerated in the furnaces of the terrible extermination camps in Germany and Poland and other countries by the German murderers together with their assistants from other nations, who were in agreement to destroy, kill, and obliterate the Jewish people and erase the memory of Judaism and destroy everything that is called in the name of Israel.God of vengeance, judge of the earth, please remember the rivers of blood that were spilled like water, the blood of fathers and sons, mothers and their infant children, rabbis and their students, and repay the enemies of thy people sevenfold. The cry of "Hear O Israel" that accompanied those taken to die, don't be still, and the cry of the tortured should rise up before the throne of glory, to avenge, speedily in our days before our eyes, the blood of your holy sons and daughters, who didn't merit a Jewish burial, as it is written: the blood of his servants will rise and revenge will return to his oppressors, and will atone for his people.Hadas Shapira then read the poem "How Should One Stand at the Remembrance Ceremony" by Yehuda Amichai.And how should one stand at a memorial ceremony? Straight or benttaut as a tent or with the negligence of mourning,head downcast like the guilty or head up in a demonstration against death,eyes wide open and frozen like the eyes of the deador eyes closed, to see the stars inside,and what's the best time to remember? At noonwhen the shadows are hidden beneath our feet, or at twilightwhen the shadows lengthen like longingthat has no beginning and no end, like God?Dalit Manzin then told the story of her father-in-law, who is a Holocaust survivor. He was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1936. In 1938, his parents took a trip to England and asked neighbors to babysit while they were away. Just at that time, Germany annexed Austria and the parents couldn't come back. The neighbors put him in an orphanage from which he was sent on a children's transport to Holland in 1939. He lived in an orphanage in Amsterdam until a foster family who lived on a farm in northern Holland took him in. In 1943 he was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after the Nazis raided the farm. He was saved in 1944 when there was an exchange of 222 Jews for German captives. After the war, he was finally identified and reunited with his parents in England. As an adult he moved to the U.S. and ultimately made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel, where he lives today.Avigail Shifrin read a story of Jonathan Leurer's grandfather who saved many Jews who were interred in the Westerbork concentration camp in Holland from being transported to the Bergen-Belsen death camp. Jews were brought in transport cars once or twice a week to the camp. They were interrogated about their wealth, which was then deposited in a bank in Holland. Those Jews were then transported to Bergen-Belsen. At the peril of death, before each transport, Jonathan's grandfather would sneak into the office that contained the list of transportees to look at the names on the list. When they saw children's names they would do whatever they could to spare them the decree. Cooperative doctors would write that the children had contagious diseases and they wouldn't be transported. At the same time, the partisans helped move children out of the camp. One time, Jonathan's grandfather tried to remove a 10-year-old boy from the transport train, but was stopped by the camp's chief of police. He was threatened that either the child be put back on the train or Jonathan's grandfather would also be put on it. Having no other choice, he put the boy back on the train. As the doors shut, he heard the boy cry out, "But you promised you'd save me." This sound echoed with him until the end of his life.Zehava Tesfay read from Etti Hilsom's diary. Etti Hilsom was a Jew who was killed in Aushwitz at age 29. She wrote that humiliation always requires two – the one who humiliates and the one who is humiliated. One morning she rode her bicycle and enjoyed looking at the sky. In the city there were signs everywhere noting places that were forbidden to the Jews. There were no such signs in the sky. Life is hard, but the sky within provides the feeling of freedom. People need not be embarrassed for fooling themselves, she wrote. True peace can come only when a person is at peace with himself and when he uproots the hatred within and transforms it into love.The staff then sang the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikva,” and dispersed to return to work.


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