Grapevine: March of the Living is 25 years old

During his visit to the Netherlands, Netanyahu addressed members of the Jewish community in the four-centuries-old Portuguese Synagogue.

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January 26, 2012 22:28
4 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu talks to Johan van Hulst

Binyamin Netanyahu talks to Johan van Hulst 390 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

■ MARCH OF the Living, which this year marks its 25th anniversary, has held a special reception for the occasion in New York, attended by Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor. Others attending included co-vice chairmen of the March of the Living Shlomo Grofman and Dr. David Machlis; executive vice chairman of Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein; president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding Rabbi Marc Schneier; Park East Synagogue Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier and several other dignitaries. Also present during the event was WWII liberator Rick Carrier, the first Allied soldier to enter Buchenwald and witness the atrocities committed by the Nazis. “Nobody can ever deny what I saw with my own two eyes,” the veteran told the hushed audience.

Carrier will be participating in the 2012 March of the Living, in which survivors and liberators will be marching together – some of them for the first time. An international educational program that each year brings thousands of students and Holocaust survivors to Poland to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day, paying tribute to the memories the victims before continuing on to Israel, the March of the Living was the brainchild of former government minister Avraham Hirchson, who is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption.

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But the organization he helped to found grows stronger from year to year.

Keynote speaker Hoenlein stated: “The greatest enemies facing the Jewish people are ignorance and apathy. Only those who learn the lessons of the past are prepared to meet the challenges of the future. There is a great hunger for knowledge and we have to feed it by giving young people the experience of attending the March of the Living.”

The event was endorsed by Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who was a child Holocaust survivor and who today is chairman of Yad Vashem. Lau, who makes a point of participating in the March of the Living every year, said: “I am convinced the March of the Living… creates a deeper commitment to Israel among the student participants from around the world and ensures that the eternal light of the Jewish people and Israel will never be extinguished.”

DURING HIS visit to the Netherlands last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed members of the Jewish community in the four-centuries-old Portuguese Synagogue. The date of his visit coincided with the anniversary of the edict of expulsion of Portuguese Jews that was issued in 1496 by King Manuel I in exchange for the agreement of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain that Manuel could marry their daughter Princess Isabel. The next day Netanyahu met with Prof. Johan van Hulst who, as the director of a Protestant seminary during WWII, was able to hide and save more than 500 Jewish children. Van Hulst, 101, has been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations. Netanyahu gave him a Bible, not only as a symbol of appreciation but also as the common foundation of both Judaism and Christianity.

Van Hulst told the prime minister that the most difficult time in his life was when he realized that he could not save all the children who needed saving.

Hoping to comfort the elderly hero, Netanyahu replied that in Jewish tradition it is said that whoever saves a single life is as one who saved the whole world. He thanked him on behalf of the Jewish people and all of humanity. In accepting the Bible, Van Hulst said that he has studied the Bible for many years. To which Netanyahu responded: “I work six days a week and my Sabbath joy is to study the Bible.”

Van Hulst, who has voiced his disapproval of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, refrained from discussing politics with Netanyahu when they met.

■ 2012 IS the centenary of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, whose activities in Israel have grown remarkably from a group of nurses to the magnificent medical facilities in Jerusalem that provide specialized treatment not only to Israelis, but also to Palestinians and to people from many parts of the globe who cannot get the type or quality of treatment they require in their home countries. The kick-off for the centenary celebrations – of which there will be several throughout the year – was meant to be the Hadassah Israel 2012 conference scheduled for February 28 - March 1 at the Ramada Hotel, Jerusalem with the tentative participation of Prof. Ehud Kokia, director-general of Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), political reporter Ayala Hason, Israel Prize recipient for Work on Women’s Rights Prof. Alice Shalvi, Prof. Yoel Donchin, HMO, Prof. Shifra Shwartz, Ben Gurion University, writer and former Youth Aliya director-general Eli Amir, director-general of JNF Efi Shtenzler, Dr. Jose Cohen, HMO and others.

Although it is still scheduled to take place, it was preceded by one of HMO’s star surgeons, Prof. Avi Rifkind, suing HMO in the National Labor Court.

Rifkind, head of the department of general surgery and trauma, has four years to go before retirement. Acknowledged worldwide as an expert in trauma therapy who never gives up on a patient and who has saved some of the most hopeless cases Rifkind has brought a lot of fame and glory to Hadassah, and the last thing he expected when Kokia took over from Shlomo Mor-Yosef, was to find himself on the way out of a job. But the day after Kokia’s appointment, he informed Rifkind that a tender was being published. Rifkind is no pushover, and the repercussions are unlikely to be pleasant. Hadassah has a rotation policy vis-à-vis department heads, but Rifkind was exempted for years and was under the impression that the exemption would continue until his retirement.

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