Jerusalem – Thousands of high school students from across Israel participated in a national walk on Sunday, April 22, from Yad Vashem on the “Connecting Path” to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, organized by Israel’s Ministry of Education. The students took part in a special school project to commemorate the nation’s Holocaust Day, which took place last Thursday, and its connection to Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, which falls on Wednesday.
During the walk, the students stopped at different stations along the way, learning about the Jewish people’s struggle for survival during the Holocaust and recalling entire Jewish communities wiped out by the systematic state murder of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and his collaborators across Europe. The names of the 5,000 Jewish communities that were destroyed or barely survived the Holocaust are engraved on 107 stone walls known as the “Valley of Communities” at Yad Vashem. As the high school students passed through, there were many who looked for the names of cities and towns of grandparents had come from.
“I found the name of my grandfather’s town in Poland,” said Udi Knebel, an eighth grade student at Leyada High School, whose grandfather is a Holocaust survivor.
“From the Holocaust to Revival” was the theme of the day. Along the path to Mount Herzl, the burial site of some of the Jewish people’s most well-known leaders and fighters who sought to shape an independent Jewish state, students passed by an original German cattle car given by Polish authorities that was used to transport Jews to extermination camps. The students also learned about the hollow tree trunk that that provided shelter for Jakob Silberstein when the Nazis were searching for him in the home of Jana Sudova, which he had escaped to during a death march from Auschwitz to Czechoslovakia in January 1945. Silberstein located the tree trunk many years later and had it brought to Yad Vashem five years ago where it is now on display.
The connection between the Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel’s Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers was brought to light by the concluding ceremony held at Yad Vashem’s memorial site for Holocaust survivors who fought and fell during Israel’s 1948 Independence Day War. High school student representatives laid a wreath of flowers at the sight which was built to commemorate all those who were the last and surviving members of families killed in the Holocaust, who came to Israel and died battling Israel’s first war as a young state.
“These people gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said 18-year old Noi, about to enter the army and one of the guides giving tours to the students on Sunday. “We are here today thanks in part to those Holocaust survivors who fought to make this Jewish state happen,” he explained to the students. “They were never able to establish their own homes here in Israel, but they helped create a national home for our people. We must never forget them, nor their suffering or their faith in a dream that seemed impossible.”