At 10 a.m. Monday morning, Israel came to a standstill as sirens blared throughout the country to commemorate the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. Cars came to a stop, men and women halted their steps and stores ceased conducting business as Israelis observed Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Following the sirens, President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior officials took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority’s Jerusalem museum. Afterwards, members of the public read the names of victims at Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance.
“Sometimes they say a little bit about the person or say kaddish,” Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari said.
She added that members of the public put “flowers on the names of the murder sites in the hall” and speak about relatives who died.
A group of Jewish tourists from Australia got up, each recalling a family member who did not survive. Afterwards, a choir sang the Hebrew song “Ani Ma’amin,” reaffirming faith in God and the Jewish people’s messianic hopes. The hall’s eternal flame was rekindled and the kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, was recited.
In an address to representatives of Israel’s various youth movements delivered at Yad Vashem in the afternoon, Education Minister Shai Piron said he wanted to assure survivors that Israel will “do everything, everything, so your story will continue” and inspire the Jewish people to grand achievements.
“I urge you, dear young people – our mission is to tell the story and make the story live,” he said, addressing the youths.
The Education Ministry and Yad Vashem have collaborated on a new school curriculum aimed at “shift[ing] the spotlight from engaging focuses on horror and evil to being about the transcendent human spirit, humanity and morality,” the ministry said.
“On this Yom Hashoah,” US President Barack Obama said, “I join people of all faiths in the United States, in the State of Israel, and around the world in remembering the 6 million Jews – innocent men, women and children – who were senselessly murdered during the Holocaust, as well as all the victims of Nazi brutality and violence.”
Despite the horrors of the Holocaust, Obama stated, “this day also provides us with an opportunity to honor those who emerged from the darkness of the Shoah to rebuild their lives in new communities around the world. On this Yom HaShoah, let us recommit ourselves to the task of remembrance, and to always oppose anti-Semitism wherever it takes root. Together, we must give enduring meaning to the words ‘never again.’”