PRESIDENT Reuven Rivlin addresses the opening ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last night..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Holocaust was a seminal event in the history of the Jewish people, but it was not the beginning of its story and “there is no greater mistake” than thinking that “the State of Israel is some sort of compensation” for it, President Reuven Rivlin declared on Wednesday evening.
Speaking at the annual state Holocaust commemoration at Yad Vashem, Rivlin said: “We came from Auschwitz, not because of Auschwitz.”
“We cannot let the pogroms, the bellowing smoke of the crematoria blind us or blur our abilities to recognize our past, our identity, our heritage – which are stronger than those who wish to destroy us,” he said.
While he described the Holocaust as “our lowest point,” Rivlin cautioned that Jews must remember that their people’s journey did not begin in the concentration camps, but instead in the Land of Israel and “it is here that it has always strived to return.”
“The State of Israel is not a compensation for the Holocaust,” he continued, adding that it was established “out of a love and longing for an ancient homeland by virtue of a dream that came true, a dream that became a reality.
Not out of fear of extinction or out of hatred of the other.”
While Israel has open eyes and will not “belittle any threats” nor “surrender,” Israelis are not scared, he averred.
“The horror of the past and the threats of the present will not dictate our lives nor shape the lives of our children.”
Israel, he said, must take on the “moral imperative to fight for commemoration and memory, but also for the dreams of the victims and survivors.
Their dream of building a society, a better society, a more inclusive society, a more compassionate society.
A society whose strength is in its human spirit and its creativity.”
Earlier this week, the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel released a report stating that 45,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel are living below the poverty line.
Following Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, issuing a thinly veiled criticism of the American approach to Iran, comparing the Islamic Republic’s expansionism and wish to destroy the Jewish state with Nazi Germany and citing the failure of appeasement prior to the Second World War.
Recalling a meeting he held earlier in the day in his office with a Holocaust survivor, Netanyahu said he was told that it was his job to “prevent another Holocaust.”
The lesson of the Second World War and the Holocaust was, he said, that there is “no room to be weak when faced with tyrannical regimes.”
According to the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitic violence rose by nearly 40 percent in 2014 over the previous year, a significantrise.
“Many streets in our European cities have become hunting grounds for Jews, and some Jews are now forced to avoid community institutions and synagogues as a result,” European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor said Wednesday morning.
“Some are choosing to leave the continent, many are afraid to walk the streets and even more are retreating behind high walls and barbed wire.
This has become the new reality of Jewish life in Europe.”
On Thursday at 10 a.m. the entire country will come to a halt at the sounding of the annual memorial siren, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square attended by Rivlin, Netanyahu, and other senior governmental, military, and political figures.