Israel came to a standstill starting Wednesday night as it began to mark the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.
By Roseanne Tabachnik/TPS
Israel came to a standstill on Wednesday night as it began to mark the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, with an opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered their speeches at the ceremony, honoring the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
“Eighty years have gone by since that war broke out where they planned and executed the methodical extermination of the six million of our brothers and sisters,” President Rivlin said.
In his speech, the president warned that Israel must not form alliances with extremists and racist groups, who fail to recognize their wrongdoing and responsibility in the Holocaust.
Mr. Rivlin continued to speak of Israel’s strength and power in modern times. “I am not afraid for us, for the State of Israel. The Jewish people are no longer weak. It is not defenseless. The State of Israel is not only a stable democracy, we’re also powerful.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address followed Rivlin’s, emphasizing the significant role of Holocaust survivors in the state of Israel.
“I felt huge pain for this terrible disaster that befell us, but together with that, I felt a huge pride to represent our people who rose from the ashes in our independent state,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu drew references to anti-Semitism rising around the world and in the U.S., hinting at the recent caricature published in the New York Times. “The publication of caricatures of hate towards Israel undermines the legitimacy of the Jewish state,” he said.
After Netanyahu’s speech, Holocaust survivor Bela Eizenman lit the first torch at the ceremony, followed by Shaul Lubovitz, Fanny Ben-Ami, Menachem Haberman, Sara Shapira, and Yehuda Mimon. Inspiring films describing their heroic survival during the Holocaust and the large families they raised in its wake were played before each one in turn lit a memorial torch.
A two-minute-long siren sounded throughout the country on Thursday at 10 a.m., during which the entire country stood in unison in a moment of silence in memory of the six million Holocaust victims.