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 am local time, a two-minute siren blared all across Israel in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. For two solid minutes, people stop wherever they are, no matter what they're doing. Cars stop in the middle of the highway and the drivers get out standing silently. City buses stop wherever they are and passengers pile out to remember the victims. It's the beginning of formal ceremonies throughout the country where people pause to remember.
The Fellowship office in Jerusalem also held a memorial ceremony. To the backdrop of six memorial candles, an Israeli flag, a poster with the words Holocaust Remembrance Day and a screenshot from The Fellowship commercial calling to refocus the way Holocaust Remembrance is marked so that it includes helping impoverished Holocaust survivors, the staff gathered in the conference room. As the siren blared, all stood in silent contemplation.
At the end of the siren, one staff member 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.
A few more prayers were read. After these prayers, some staff members read testimonies of their grandparents, sharing their meaningful and harrowing Holocaust stories with the office.
One staff member, Keren, spoke of her grandfather, Chaim.
After the war, Chaim introduced himself to all as "a graduate of five concentration camps.” His parents, sister and her family were murdered at the beginning of the war. He and his two brothers were separated and only reunited after the war. Keren explained that Chaim wouldn't talk about the Holocaust. He simply said that he knew how to manage and always had enough to help others. It was neither easy nor fun being his granddaughter. He was an embittered man.
When Keren would tell him that she loved him, he would only answer, "Thank you.” Keren explained that for many years she was angry with her grandfather for not knowing how to love or how to be a grandfather. One day he apologized for not being a proper grandfather. He explained that his father and grandfather had been murdered when he was young and he simply didn't know what it meant to be a grandfather.
At the age of 83, ten years before he died, Keren's grandfather decided to choose life. He told Keren that he had been irritable and had always only seen the bad. This despite the fact that he should have been happy since he had good children, good grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He said that a person doesn't need anything else.
From that day on, Chaim made an effort to learn to live a life filled with joy.
Although the Nazis tried to destroy Chaim, he defeated the Holocaust by leaving behind five children, 17 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
A few more stories were shared.
The staff then sang the Israeli National Anthem, and dispersed to return to work.
While the ceremony came to a close, we hope to always remember those who died during the Holocaust.
May we never forget.