A general election is on our doorstep – the third in one year. It comes against a backdrop of a historic and moving month. The Fifth World Holocaust Forum took place on January 23 and then came US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” five days later.
The Holocaust Forum, held in Jerusalem, marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, attracted 49 world leaders. Presidents and princes gave speeches, but the speech that impressed me the most was that of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who referred specifically to Germans, never once using the word “Nazi.” He took on board the guilt that belongs to the Germans alone.
Readers may recall my previous article in which I quoted my late husband, a Holocaust survivor, who believed that using the word “Nazi” was a way of separating the Germans from their responsibility for the Shoah. It was as if the Germans created another
species named “Nazis” solely responsible for the murder of six million of our brethren.
It was moving to hear Steinmeier begin his speech with the Sheheheyanu, a prayer thanking the Almighty, who has kept us alive and enabled us to reach this moment. It was Steinmeier’s way of saying how significant it was to be at Yad Vashem at this painfully historic time, expressing the guilt of his people. His Hebrew pronunciation was perfect, unlike others whose attempts to say a few words in Hebrew were incomprehensible. He also chose to deliver his speech in English rather than German, a sensitive decision.
The gathering of leaders and their speeches was most impressive, but at the same time, I wonder to what extent these representatives were aware of the role played by their respective countries in contributing toward the annihilation of our brethren by closing their gates to those seeking refuge. Hitler’s advancing occupation of Europe found willing hands within those occupied countries to assist in the “final solution.” And in international forums (such as the EU and UN) today, the voting records of many of these countries reflect reprehensible anti-Israel bias.
As I sat glued to the TV watching this amazing display of acknowledgment of the past, coupled with a verbal commitment to fight today’s antisemitism, I wondered how many of the younger generation had tuned into this event. To too many of them, the Holocaust is history that has little significance to their lives today.
Could this be one reason why too many university students are more willing to accept the Palestinian narrative than the Israeli one? Are they equipped with knowledge of the reality of how Israel came about in 1948? When the UN voted for the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947, leading to the rebirth of Israel, it is my belief that a number of countries cast their vote overladen with guilt that they, too, had played a role in the barbaric murder of six million Jews – not necessarily just the physical carrying out of the murder itself, but rather the “passive” contribution of those who refused entry to Jews seeking refuge.
Education remains a key factor. Sadly, with each successive generation, the facts are diminished. Fiction replaces the actuality of what took place, an increasing inevitability with the demise of the last Holocaust survivors.
AND THEN, at the end of the month, came Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” a peace plan that has been interpreted in differing ways – for some a “gift” and for others a “disaster.” Initially viewed by Israelis and Palestinians as heavily in favor of Israel, what has emerged is the time factor. There are brakes on annexation of the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria as the deal speaks of a four-year program. The hope is that time will enable the two sides to come together – a concept that, currently, the Palestinians have rejected outright.
Questions arise as to whether Israel can annex areas held by the Palestinians and remain a democratic state; if too many Palestinians will be living in Israel proper, will they be given a national vote?
What of those Israeli Arabs who could suddenly find themselves within the Palestinian entity – a possible result of the Deal’s redrawn borders? Many born and educated in Israel feel part of the Israeli fabric, contributing positively throughout the country. Their overwhelming reaction is total negativity. They do not wish to be treated as pawns on a chessboard; they wish to remain in Israel.
Are the Palestinians ready to accept Israel as a Jewish state that has existed for 72 years when they continue to educate their children to hate Jews, kill Israelis and to anticipate the time when Israel will be eliminated.
Some years ago, I had the honor of representing the State of Israel at the Women and Peace conference held in Geneva and chaired by Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the then-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. Being the sole Israeli representative present,
I was an interesting creature whom CNN interviewed. When asked what I thought might be a contributing factor toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians, my answer was “Peace is about what we teach our children.”
As long as the Palestinians continue to educate their children to hate us, peace is not viable.
BACK TO the beginning. In 10 days, we will be voting for a new Knesset. My hope is that this time a government will be formed. Israel faces many challenges; Jews living in the Diaspora face ongoing and increasing antisemitism. While there are countries that have enacted legislation against antisemitism, laws, in themselves, cannot change a mindset; in tangent, an intensive education program is vital.
As to the future of the Jewish world, education is urgently required to ensure that those who come after us will be imbued with love for and an awareness of the significance of the one Jewish state.
The words of Holocaust survivor and poet, Aba Kovner, ring loud and clear: “Remember the past, live the present and trust the future.”
It is incumbent upon us to remember the past and, thereby, to live and appreciate the present. But to trust the future is not enough; we have to ensure it. Our younger generation must know the facts. Only then will they understand how blessed we are to have Israel.
The writer is public relations chairwoman of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.