Since last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day 14,264 survivors have passed away in Israel. Of those who remain, many endure conditions of abject poverty and isolation which is further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of encounters are taking place this evening and tomorrow (Thursday) to mark Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day in a project called “Zikaron B’Salon” (Memories in the Living Room) that gathers people to hear the personal experiences of Holocaust survivors. At least half a million Israelis are expected to participate in these encounters, some of which are being organized by agencies in local authorities.
During these events, hosts screen or read testimonies of Holocaust survivors; when possible, hosts have invited Holocaust survivors and/or their descendants – or an academic expert – to speak personally with those gathered. At present, there are 174,500 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, according to data provided by the government Authority for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors.
Rivlin: 900 Survivors Killed by COVID-19
President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both delivered remarks Wednesday evening at the opening ceremony in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum that served as the launch for the next 24 hours of events.
The central theme for this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is “Until the Very Last Jew: Eighty Years Since the Onset of Mass Annihilation.”
The ceremony included the lighting of the traditional six torches by Holocaust survivors to honor the memory of the six million Jews slaughtered by the Nazis.
‘On Your Behalf, I Swore to Remember’
“Nine hundred Holocaust survivors passed away just in Israel as a direct result of the [coronavirus] pandemic,” Rivlin said in his address.
“They survived the ghettoes and the death camps, the immigrant ships and the internment camps. But the final battle of their lives was fought with them bewildered and isolated, behind masks and gloves, yearning for contact but parted from their loved ones. This evening, our hearts are with them and their families.”
“You Holocaust survivors, heroes of our rebirth, who found the fortitude to get up from the ground soaked in blood and tears, to look forward, to choose life, to love, to laugh, to enjoy, to believe, to build and to create. On your behalf, I swore to remember and remind that the Jewish people was not born at Auschwitz and that our spiritual, religious and political character was not formed there.”
‘Worth a Garlic’s Peel’
Netanyahu used the opportunity at the podium to deliver a message of compassion to Israel’s Holocaust survivors, and warning to Iran and those countries attempting to reinstate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal in talks this week in Vienna – including the United States.
“Let there be no mistake, an agreement with Iran will not bind us in any way,” Netanyahu said.
“The nuclear agreement with Iran that allowed it to advance its development of atomic bombs, is on the table again. But history has taught us that such agreements in such regimes are worth as much as garlic’s peel.
“Throughout the coronavirus year, every day I thought of you, the Holocaust survivors. I know the stay at home, being away from family members, the isolation, the closures, were very difficult.”
Both Rivlin and Netanyahu were set to join with Israel’s Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin to virtually attend via a video link the memorial ceremony in Poland commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Wreaths were to be laid at the site of the last stand taken by Jewish Ghetto residents as they fought for their lives against their Nazis captors.
Siren to Observe Moment of Silence
During the day of Thursday events marking Holocaust Remembrance Day will begin at 10:50 am when Knesset Speaker Levin lights a memorial candle at the entrance to the Israeli parliament building.
A two-minute siren will sound across the nation at 11 am Thursday, calling all people in the State of Israel to stand for a moment in silence in memory of the six million victims murdered by the Nazis.
The day of memories is to end at 4:45 pm with a ceremony held at the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum at Kibbut Lohamei HaGeta’ot in northern Israel. The kibbutz was founded in 1949 by survivors of the Holocaust.