Israel came to a halt Monday, as a two-minute siren sounded at 10 a.m., calling the country’s citizens to recall the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust.
Nationwide, schools held memorial ceremonies, and the political leadership took a break from its usual infighting to read aloud the names of some of those killed.RELATED:
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Holocaust Remembrance Day began the evening before, with a state ceremony at Yad Vashem, where the commemorations continued immediately after Monday’s siren. President Shimon Peres, who along with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was present for the morning wreath-laying, flew to Poland to address the March of the Living later in the day.
IDF Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz, also attended the Yad Vashem ceremony, and later in the day visited a number of Holocaust survivors.
“Each Jew should see himself as if he or she survived the Holocaust,” Gantz said.
The central theme of this year’s Holocaust commemoration was “Fragments of Memory: The Faces Behind the Documents, Artifacts and Photographs” – a campaign launched by the Holocaust Museum aimed at collecting and preserving documents so that future generations may learn about the genocide of the Jewish people from firsthand sources.
Following the siren, the “Every Person Has a Name” readings were held both at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin opened the reading by offering a brief tribute to former Knesset speaker and Holocaust Survivor Dov Shilansky, who died earlier this year. Shilansky initiated the first ceremonial reading of victims’ names at the Knesset.
Peres, who read after Rivlin, commemorated “my family members, who were massacred together with 2,060 members of their community in the town of Vishneva in August 1942, by the Nazis and their local helpers, who gathered the Jews in the wooden synagogue and burned them alive.”
Among those killed in Peres’s family were his grandparents, uncles and cousins.
After Peres, Netanyahu recalled members of his wife Sarah’s family who were killed.
Netanyahu’s father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, left Poland in 1933 for Palestine, but Ben- Artzi’s parents and siblings remained in Poland and were all murdered in the Holocaust.
“Shmuel and Chava had three sons and a daughter, a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their lives are a memorial candle and a living testimony to the continuation of the family, when all of the Shmuel’s immediate family was killed.”
“The lives of millions of members of the Jewish nation were cut short by the Holocaust,” said Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni. “Some of the survivors came to Israel, and build new lives in the state of Israel. Their descendants continued to struggle for its existence, at times at the expense of their lives.”
Livni recounted the story of the Mikelberg family, which was “almost completely wiped out in the Holocaust.”
“The last remaining descendant, Ariela, lost her two sons, Barak and Amichai, defending the State of Israel,” she continued.
Livni read out the names of the Mikelberg family, who were deported to Treblinka and killed, and told the story of Ariela, now Ariela Itkes, born after the war to Binyamin Mikelberg.
“The name Mikelberg will not be the last name of anybody in Israel, and all that remains of the Itkes family are Ariela and her daughter Meital. The story of the Itkes and Mikelberg families is one of many in the Jewish people – of unintentional heroes, who fought to survive and heroes who fought to defend – those who were sacrificed because of their Judaism, and those who sacrifice for the Jewish State.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also referred to the role of Israel’s defense in post-Holocaust generations.
“The Israel Defense Forces are standing on guard for the Jewish people, and it is the IDF that promises ‘never again.’ The defense forces are the eternal answer to the Holocaust – the revenge of those who were killed, the consolation for those who survived and the hope shared by all,” Barak said.
Hours before the Knesset ceremony, MK Michael Ben- Ari (National Union)
launched a new Knesset lobby that he called the “Lobby for Internalizing
the Lessons of the Holocaust.”
“Along the commandment to remember what Amalek did unto you – which we
do every year on the 26th of Nissan – we have an obligation to examine
the lessons of the past,” Ben-Ari said.
He added that the new lobby will examine occurrences of hatred against Israel in a modern context.
National Union Chairman Yaacov Katz told lobby members that “the
greatest revenge to the Germans is the blessed birthrate and natural
growth of the Jewish people.”
Katz called on Israel to stop bringing world leaders to Yad Vashem to
show them the “pathos and demeaning exile” of the Jewish people – but
rather to highlight what Jews have accomplished since.
“They should be exposed to our ability to destroy Iran in an instant,
and Syria in a minute, if they dare to raise their hands against us,” he
In a statement from US President Barak Obama, the president expressed
solidarity with Israel for the six-million killed by the Nazis.
“I join people here at home, in Israel, and around the world in
commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, and in honoring the memory of
all those who suffered, died and lost loved ones in one of the most
barbaric acts in human history,” his statement read.
“We must heed the urgency to listen to and care for the last living
survivors, camp liberators and the witnesses to the Shoah. And we must
meet our sacred responsibility to honor all those who perished by
recalling their courage and dignity in the face of unspeakable
atrocities, by insisting that the world never forget them, and by always
standing up against intolerance and injustice,” Obama concluded.