Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. As the State of Israel stood for two minutes of silence this morning, a loud and mournful cry arose from every corner of the country. Six million people stood in silence – remembering another six million who never made it here.
The plaintive wail that sounded throughout Israel this morning evokes tears, memories, pain, and a startling sense of loss. It also evokes a sense of determination and purpose - the State of Israel is here to stay.
As Jews, we understand the horrors of war. As Israelis, we understand the costs of the hate and war that has been – and continues to be – forced upon us. And out of the plaintive cry marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, followed next week by the same plaintive cry mourning our losses as a nation of the sons and daughters who have given their lives in defense of our country, we grow as a nation toward the independence that our nation has achieved at such a high cost.
I was asked last week by an American to explain the difference between Israeli Independence Day and the Fourth of July. I answered that the close juxtaposition of Holocaust Remembrance Day with Israeli Memorial Day and Israeli Independence Day adds awesome power to the values that make us who we are. Israelis not only understand that our independence has grown out of the ashes of the worst massacre in human history and has come at the cost of tens of thousands of our children killed in the relentless defense of our country and our citizens, we viscerally feel as we celebrate that we owe that celebration to those who have come before us and laid down their lives for our freedom.
Israeli independence, the protection and development of our national home, and the protection that it affords to all Jews – and all freedom loving people – everywhere, are the vehicle through which we say to the world that, as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by while our people have been killed. “Never again” has real meaning here.
It is on such an emotionally laden day as this, that we woke up this morning to the news that the United States military has captured and killed Osama Bin-Laden, the worst terrorist on the face of the earth. As I watched Barack Obama’s speech from the White House announcing Bin-Laden’s death, I could not help but draw the connection.
As the world today justly celebrates the death of a mass murderer of the innocent, Jews remember those murdered by another mass murderer of the innocent, just a few decades ago. We are reminded to be ever vigil against such pure evil, for there is always another mass murderer of the innocent around the corner.
“Americans understand the costs of war,” Obama said. “As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by while our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.”
This morning, we heard a US President say of Americans what every Israeli feels instinctively about Israel. And while President Obama acts on those words in defense of America, it would be wonderful if both he, and Israeli leaders across our political spectrum, internalized their message and the mission that they contain for our national future.
The lesson of the Holocaust, and of the Israeli independence that has grown out of its ashes, is that every drop of Jewish blood is precious, and must be defended with all the might G-d has placed in our hands. Terrorists cannot be tolerated, whether they are Osama Bin Laden or Hamas, or Hizbullah, or any of the other mass murderers aiming their hate and venom at Israel. Our values demand that they all be given the same treatment. And our future depends on it.