On March 15, Memorial Hill in Jerusalem witnessed an unusual ceremony. The large outdoor plaza at the entrance to the new Yad Vashem Memorial Museum was filled with hundreds of foreign dignitaries seated on plastic chairs. European delegates led by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, representatives of North and South America, Holocaust survivors, Knesset members, and important visiting personalities from Germany, France, Poland, Russia, Denmark and elsewhere came for the opening festivities.

The dignitaries had identical plastic faces. They bowed their heads in memory of six million Jews annihilated by the parents and grandparents of their fellow citizens. The temperature was low enough to cause physical discomfort, yet not a single frozen tear was perceived on any cheek.

The opening address, delivered by President Moshe Katsav, was eloquent, as were all the addresses that followed. Nevertheless, cold mountain air permeated the atmosphere. Israeli commentators described the ceremony, along with the museum itself, as “stately.” One of them explained the difference between the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem: “The Washington museum was created for the purpose of evoking emotional reaction. Yad Vashem is for the stoic and brave. Statesmen do not shed tears.”

“We are all paratroopers,” the commentator remarked. “Paratroopers do not cry.”

A long wailing shofar blast and Hatikva, sung by Dudu Fisher, opened the ceremony. Next came speakers, musical interludes by children, songs interspersed with poetry readings, and short film clips of European Jewish life before and during the Holocaust. Eli Wiesel, the last and most impressive speaker, stood at the podium without a piece of paper. When he addressed the audience his words increased the impact of the large banner in the background – Zachor et asher asa lecha Amalek.

“Where was the rage when we discovered the magnitude of the killing?” Weisel thundered. “Was this man’s inhumanity to man? No! It was man’s inhumanity to Jews!”

“Why should there be suicide bombers?” he asked. He was the only speaker to suggest that the killing of Jews continues to this day. In the stately presence of presidents and prime ministers, his purpose was clear: “Messengers have to deliver messages. We have to become the messengers.”

Two weeks ago, Orthodox Jews held ceremonies all over the globe honoring completion of the seven-and-a-half year Daf Yomi learning cycle. In cities throughout Europe, America and Israel, from Lublin to Melbourne to Sao Paolo, in stadiums, community centers and synagogues, hundreds of thousands of Jews celebrated the completion of one cycle and then immediately began the next one. 

Last week, Jewish men, women, and children attended services on Shabbat parshat Vayikra to read and hear the words of zachor: “Zachor et asher asa lecha Amalek…” They listened to the reading of parshat Zachor as they do every year on the Shabbat before Purim, for it is a mitzvah in the Torah to hear and “never forget” what Amalek did to the downtrodden Jews after they left Egypt.

The Jewish people have thousands of years of experience in collective memories. Through their daily learning programs, Jews heroically maintain their faith and they remember. Torah-loving Jews are a non-stop learning community. There is no museum anywhere in the world that has been receiving visitors continuously for 2,000 years. Only in Israel, at the Kotel, the last remnant of the Beit Hamikdash, can one find thousands of visitors throughout the day and night, praying all year long. 

Yeshivot and Jewish educational institutions are the answer to the requirements of the living. They are living testimony to faith through Torah study for Jews worldwide. New members have joined the Daf Yomi club, and, in seven-and-a-half-years, please God, their memories will be sharper, their level of understanding broader, the celebrations even greater.

Amalek is remembered in all the various masks and costumes he’s donned through the ages – and, yes, Jews are proud to shed warm, salty tears. Tears express the pain, bitterness, hardship, and martyrdom of our people throughout the centuries, from the time we left Egypt all the way to our own era.

Memorial Hill in Jerusalem is considered today’s answer for Holocaust remembrance. It does not, however, answer the anti-Semitism, the hate, the desire to murder Jews for being Jews. Moments after the ceremony at Yad Vashem, newscasts switched their focus to the White House where President Bush was saying, “Israel will have to sacrifice and Palestinians need to work hard.”

For the nations of the world, and even for some of our own brethren, we are not yet done sacrificing. Six million Jews in the years 1939 – 1945 were not enough. Thousands have been sacrificed to the present-day Amalek on the altar of the State of Israel since 1948, and that, too, is not enough. Inhumanity against Jews hasn’t had the last word yet. Now we are being called upon to add homes, businesses, and our land – in the world’s one and only Jewish state in – in order to help create yet another Arab state.

Yes, a Palestinian state will cause the Arabs to, in President Bush’s words, “work hard.” They will work hard looking for ways to kill us – while European and American heads bow reverently, their faces tearless on the frozen exterior of a Memorial Hill that doesn’t answer the timeless desire to murder Jews for being Jews.


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Faigie Heiman is an accomplished short story and essay writer, born and raised in Brooklyn, and who made aliya in 1960 where she lives with her husband in Jerusalem. A frequent contributor to Olam Yehudi, she authored a popular memoir titled “Girl For Sale” in which the events of the Six-Day War appear.