Over the past 60 years, the meaning of Yom Hashoah, Israel’s official “Memorial Day for Holocaust and Heroism,” has changed greatly in the Israeli public consciousness, from a day that invoked collective solidarity to one with a more universalist message.
That’s one of the conclusions of a study to be published soon by a Safed Academic College researcher that examined Israeli printed media from 1953, the year Yom Hashoah was established by Knesset law, to the 2000’s.
“The Holocaust motif changed in media coverage of Yom Hashoah in keeping with political and social changes in Israeli society,” reads a summary of the study’s conclusions.
According to Alonit Berenson, the researcher who conducted the study as her Master’s thesis at the college, during Israel’s first two decades, Israelis saw strong identification with the Holocaust as an integral part of their Israeli identity, carrying with it a message of the importance of collective solidarity. By the 1980’s, that collectivist message was being challenged as media coverage of the Holocaust shifted away from national themes toward personalized stories of survivors.
In the 1990’s, the collectivist message was further challenged as the left-wing Israeli paper Ha’aretz
gave voice to post-Zionist interpretations of the Holocaust, challenging traditional Israeli views about Yom Hashoah.
At the same time, the largest Israeli daily, Yediot Aharonot
while it did not generally print anti- or post-Zionist views, “saw a
noticeable change toward presenting multiple opinions on the day,
including those challenging the Zionist establishment,” according to
As the 1990’s progressed, Israeli media seemed to
find a new message in the day of commemoration, with “coverage of the
Jewish nation’s Holocaust taking on universalist significance. During
this period, [Israel’s printed] press offered coverage of the genocides
of other nations, with the message that the lesson of the Holocaust was
a universal one.” Berenson, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors
who is currently pursuing a PhD at Bar Ilan University, said her
research was intended “to continue the important effort to commemorate
the Holocaust.” The study won an excellence award from the Institute
for Holocaust Research at Bar Ilan University.