As air raid sirens blared out across the country on Thursday, citizens of Israel stopped for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
Synchronized sirens rang out at 10am throughout Israel, with pedestrian and road traffic, businesses and schools coming to an abrupt halt, and standing in silence for the 2 minute-long memorial. In Jerusalem, sidewalks were filled with all kinds of Israelis, many reciting Psalms from prayer books quickly drawn from their pockets. Memorial ceremonies conducted throughout Israel for the occasion also ceased for the siren.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that dismissing the Iranian nuclear threat as an exaggeration “have learned nothing from the Holocaust.”
Speaking at the national Holocaust Rememberance Day memorial at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Prime Minister Netanyahu called thwarting Iran’s nuclear capability an “obligation” on the world, but especially on Israel. “Remembering the Holocaust is imperative for learning the lessons of the past in order to ensure the foundations of the future,” the prime minister said. “I hope the day comes when we learn of calls for Israel’s annihilation in history classes only, and not in daily media reports. But that day is not here yet. The Iranian regime is openly calling for our destruction and working frantically for the development of nuclear weapons as a means to that end.”
President Shimon Peres, also speaking at the ceremony, said Israel is capable today of dealing with Iranian threats, and appealed to the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. “Humankind has no choice but to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and face existing threats, before it is too late,” he said.
The ceremony, held under the theme “My Brother’s Keeper”, emphasized Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust, and honored six survivors who provided aid to fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Hundreds of additional Holocaust survivors were in attendance.
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told attendees at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak on Wednesday night that the IDF is “the embodiment of the strength of the Jewish nation”, and that “we are the arm of steel that will respond to any attempt to hurt us with a harsh blow. We are the people’s wall of protection.”
Throughout Thursday, a Knesset ceremony called “Every Person Has a Name” will read out a list of the names of Holocaust victims. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres will participate in the event.