Both Israel’s prime minister and its president invoked the Iranian threat during remarks at the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad VaShem.
“I believe in our ability to defend ourselves,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony. “People who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learned nothing from the Holocaust. To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth – that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people – that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons.”
President Shimon Peres said, “Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late. Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.There is no reason to undermine Israel’s capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden.”
Both leaders also expressed their sorrow at the death of Israeli soldier Hila Bezaleli, who was killed earlier in the day when lighting collapsed on a stage on Mount Herzl during a rehearsal for a Memorial Day ceremony scheduled for next week.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, intoned the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day is a national day of commemoration in Israel, on which the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized. It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan and ending the following evening, according to the traditional Jewish custom of marking a day.
Places of entertainment are closed and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country. The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem and are broadcast on the television. Marking the start of the day-in the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad VaShem in which six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit.
The following morning, the ceremony at Yad Vashem begins with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust. Afterward, the focus of the ceremony at Yad VaShem is the laying of wreaths at the foot of the six torches, by dignitaries and the representatives of survivor groups and institutions.
Other sites of remembrance in Israel, such as the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also host memorial ceremonies, as do schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work. Throughout the day, both the television and radio broadcast programs about the Holocaust. In recent years, other countries and Jewish communities have adopted Yom Hashoah, the 27th of Nisan, to mark their own day of memorial for the victims of the Holocaust.
The central theme of the 2012 Yom Hashoah observance is “My Brother’s Keeper: Jewish Solidarity During the Holocaust.”
Documents and testimonies from the Shoah indicate that within the impossible reality into which Jews were thrust, mutual help and a commitment to the other were quite common, manifested in varied and surprising ways: members of larger communities taking in refugees from smaller ones; youth movement members who opened communal kitchens and fed the hungry; educators who clandestinely taught children and youth both secular and Jewish teachings; partisans who opened their bases to women and the elderly and protected them; former townspeople who shared the little they managed to get their hands on in the camps; people who collected and distributed food, clothing and religious articles in the ghettos; families who adopted orphaned children.
All of these examples indicate that the individual had little chance of survival without the sense of togetherness, and that this Jewish unity – such as the exhausted concentration camp inmate who was held up by two strangers on either side during a selektion – is what carried people and helped them endure another day.
At the national ceremony Wednesday, which was broadcast on all Israeli television channels, survivors lit six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Another ceremony will be held Thursday morning following the sounding of a siren for two minutes to honor the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
On Yom Hashoah in Israel, places of entertainment are closed and Holocaust themed-movies and documentaries are shown on all television channels. Memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.
Content from JTA and the Yad VaShem Yom HaShoah program was used in this article.