WHEREAS THE world at large commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Jews commemorate it on the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which was the first civilian uprising against the Nazis in occupied Europe.
Within the context of the Herzliya Thursday lectures, a special Holocaust memorial lecture will be held not on Thursday, but on Monday, April 24, when Prof. Michael Bar Zohar, who has the distinction of being David Ben-Gurion’s official biographer, will speak on “Beyond Hitler’s Grasp” at the Seven Stars Residence, 138 Hanassi Yitzhak Ben-Zvi Street.
Bar-Zohar, both a historian and a bestselling author, is widely known for his espionage stories. Born in Bulgaria, he came to Israel in 1948 and can officially be classified as a child Holocaust survivor but for the fact that most of Bulgaria’s Jews were saved.
■ TRADITIONALLY, THE opening ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day is held at Yad Vashem, and the closing ceremony the following evening at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, which was established in 1949 by former ghetto fighters.
The keynote speakers at the closing ceremony will be President Reuven Rivlin and Germany’s immediate past president, Joachim Gauck, who concluded a five-year term in March and decided not to run for a second term. The two will discuss how the moral implications of the Holocaust can be inculcated into future generations when the generation of the Holocaust fades away, and there is no one left who was a victim and a witness to the atrocities of the Nazis and their cohorts.
Gauck is no stranger to Israel. He came on a state visit in May 2012, and in May 2015 he hosted Rivlin when the latter visited Germany within the framework of the jubilee celebrations of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In December 2015, Gauck was again in Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and during that visit met again with Rivlin at the President’s Residence.
For Rivlin, the visit represented the closing of a circle. Fifty years earlier, he had participated in a fierce demonstration against the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, as well as in other demonstrations against Germany, such as when Rolf Pauls, Germany’s first ambassador to Israel, presented his credentials.
But as president in August 2015, Rivlin accepted the credentials of the current German ambassador to Israel, Dr. Clemens von Goetze.
■ A FEW days prior to Seder night, 25 lone soldiers from abroad congregated at the President’s Residence, where they were hosted by President Reuven Rivlin’s wife, Nechama, together with Hannah Eisenkot, wife of IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
Rivlin told the lone soldiers she was delighted welcome them because, despite their youth, they had demonstrated great courage in deciding to come and contribute to the security of the state. The meeting was held on the same day that Sgt. Elhai Taharlev was murdered in a terrorist attack at Ofra Junction. Rivlin noted this in her remarks and conveyed her sincere condolences to his family.
Fixing her gaze on the lone soldiers, she said: “Each of you has your own life story and your own individual background, but each of you, without exception, is putting all of your energies and determination into benefiting the state. To be a soldier is not easy under any circumstances, but to be a lone soldier, that is so much more difficult and a reality that you have to confront with all the other complex realities here.”
Rivlin assured the soldiers that they were not really alone and that their decision to come to Israel to serve the interests of the state was greatly appreciated by many of the country’s citizens. She also urged them to go out in their free time to explore the country and enjoy themselves “because you deserve it.”
Eisenkot told the soldiers that spring symbolizes growth and innovation. As the mother of two soldiers in the standing army and three officers in the reserves, she said she could well appreciate the contributions of the lone soldiers. Although they came from different backgrounds, she said, they shared a common denominator of a sense of mission and contribution. Because they were all in different units, they added strength to the IDF and were an inspiration to their peers, she said.
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