The Holocaust Remembrance Day siren and stubborn Israeli politics - comment

The unity of these two minutes shows how Israel is an unruly, cacophonous testimony to the unwillingness of Jews to recede into history – and also how much more needs to be done.

 Israelis stand still as the siren to commemorate Holocaust victims sounds throughout Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28, 2022.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Israelis stand still as the siren to commemorate Holocaust victims sounds throughout Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

 The siren.

It’s so inadequate.

Two minutes to stop and think about six million lives lost – murdered because they were Jews.

But we’re good at being quiet for two minutes when the country comes to a halt, like it will next week for Remembrance Day as we recall those who fell in battle or were victims of terrorist acts. Those two minutes provide an enforced window of opportunity to reflect not only on the worst atrocity that has befallen mankind in general, and the Jewish people specifically, but that those standing silently are doing so in the reborn Jewish state.

As Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated in his very dignified address, the biggest threat to Israel today is not necessarily from outside our borders – from Iran, or Hezbollah or Hamas. It’s from within: the deep political chasm tearing the country apart.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, April 27, 1011.  (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, April 27, 1011. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

This was easy to see at the official memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem on Wednesday night. Bennett and opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu – and Netanyahu and Justice Minister Gideon Saar – meters away from each other and sullenly staring straight ahead, unable to even look each other in the eye.

Their personal animosity couldn’t be hidden or veiled for an hour, as the chilling, emotional stories of the six torch lighters – all survivors of the Holocaust – unfolded before them.

What does that mean about our future as a country?

Built on the ashes of the victims – but also on the sheer will and bravery of the survivors who arrived here – Israel is an unruly, cacophonous testimony to the unwillingness of Jews to recede into history.

We’ve surmounted untold obstacles in creating this modern miracle – and many more await us in our path. But they can only be met with a unified front that has room in its tent for dissenting views, opposing ideologies, and contrasting visions – while agreeing on the major point that Israel must remain strong, and we can rely only on ourselves for our survival.

The siren on Holocaust Remembrance Day is only two minutes. As inadequate as that may be to try to comprehend the massive loss of Jewish lives, it is enough time to recall the past, bask in the present – and worry about the future.