Saturday 7 May 2016

Remembrance Day Reflections

When lighting the candle or listening to the siren on the day that commemorates the six million who were killed, and the heroes who survived the greatest genocide known to mankind, I find myself reflecting on so many different thoughts.  We are afforded a few minutes to think about what was, what is and what could be.

Amongst other thoughts, today I was struck by some of the similarities between Pesach and remembering the Shoah.  Jewish texts and prayers are littered with references to the exodus from Egypt, and the obligation on the Jewish people to remember it.  It is found necessary to remind Jews to remember this through the generations, despite it being regarded as probably the greatest miracle ever to happen to the Jewish people.  Memories can apparently be short, even when it comes to recalling miracles.  This is also reflected in the central mitzvah of the Pesach Seder, to tell one's children of the miracle of the exodus from Egypt.  In fact, the Haggadah tells us that, in each generation, we should immerse ourselves into the exodus from Egypt so deeply, that we should imagine that we actually experienced it ourselves.

In many ways, this is exactly what Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel is about.  It is about never forgetting.  It is about being immersed in the events that led to the annihilation of 6 million of our people.  It is about recognising the bravery of those who stood up to the murderers despite the odds.  It is about standing to support and strengthen the survivors.  It is about never forgetting how evil people can be, and how Jews can be hated for no apparent reason.  It is about celebrating the survival of our people, and celebrating he Jewish state.  And it is about ensuring that the next generations know all of this so they will never forget.  Most of all, it is about preserving the State of Israel which is the only way to ensure that this never happens again.

In the months and years following the genocide, people could not believe that such an event had been allowed to take place without the intervention of the international community.  And yet, more than 70 years later, it is easy to see how it could have happened.  The United Nations organisation that was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Shoa to ensure that it does not happen again, is exactly the organisation that gives a platform to those who wish for it to happen again.  Many of the events that precipitated the murder of millions of our people, and the thoughts, sentiments, views and actions are dangerously repeating themselves in our day.  It has become politically correct, acceptable and even desirable to be anti-Semitic, dressed up as being anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli.  The BDS movement is at the forefront of what could be likened to the Nazi Party in Germany in the early 1930s.  While they stop short of calling for the annihilation of the Jews, they are actively working to indelibly damage the State of Israel.  They realise, as many of us do, that a world without Israel is a smokescreen for a world without Jews.

While we unbelievably continue to witness the hatred towards Israel and Jews that was such a hallmark of the lead-up to the Shoa, there are a few things that have changed since then.  With the access that we have to news and events around the world brought about by the Internet and social media, nobody will be able to say that they were not aware that this was happening.  Some are in denial about the true intentions of the Palestinians, of BDS and of other anti-Israel activists.  There are those, many of them Jews, who think that this is ok in our democratic world.  It is their view that Israel deserves to be criticised and castigated for actions to defend her existence and that of her citizens and Jews around the world.  But they will never be able to deny that these events took place.

Perhaps the most important difference between then and now, is the existence of the State of Israel.  It is not only the existence of the state, but also the existence of leadership which is prepared to take the difficult decisions required to ensure our continued survival.  When considering this, along with a population of young and old who are willing to give all that they have to defend our rightful existence in our homeland, I am convinced that even the most determined anti-Semite will have no prospect of repeating the horrendous events of the Shoa.  The State of Israel and the proud Jews who live there are our strength that is insurmountable to all those who wish harm upon the Jews.

It has been amazing to see the evolution of the nervous, fearful yellow star into the strong, proud and determined blue star.  The same star, but two different worlds.  Whereas the yellow star was worn with shame and trepidation, the blue star stands for democracy, innovation, pride, determination and an attitude that will do everything to ensure that we never again return to the yellow star.

We mourn those millions who were lost in the Shoa, but we bask in the glory of the State of Israel, the victory that this represents over those who wished to destroy us.  We will never forget, and we will never return to those days.  Never again.

Am Yisrael Chai.

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