Domestic turmoil has turned this Holocaust Remembrance Day into a day like no other, President Isaac Herzog said in his address during the official state ceremony at Yad Vashem on Monday night.
Herzog's speech was given against the background of the ongoing judicial reform debate that is raging across Israel and the widening political divide, which he addressed in his opening remarks, saying that "this memorial day is like no other. This year, feelings are rough and shoulders are hunched as if to attest to the weight of the discord bearing down on us."
A country divided, united by grief
"We are presently marking 75 years of Israeli rebirth. Seventy-five years of victory, in which the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and Israeli society, its back strait, stand and declare before the Nazi monster and those who would follow its path, even in this generation: you will not defeat us."President Isaac Herzog
He went on to appeal to the nation's citizens to "leave these sacred days... above all dispute; let us all come together, as always, in partnership, in grief, in remembrance."
During his speech, Herzog stressed the abuse of "science" by the Nazis to justify their crimes by telling the story of Siegbert Rosenthal and Sarah Bomberg-Birenzweig, two of the 86 Jews that were killed as part of a Nazi plan to establish a museum "of skulls and skeletons of an extinct race" at the Reichsuniversität Strasburg in France.
"The museum of skulls and skeletons of an extinct race reflected how, with blood-curdling cruelty, the Nazis were also thinking about the day after. The day when no living Jew would remain anywhere on earth," Herzog went on to say. This museum was supposed to provide an answer to the question of how the world, “cleansed of Jews," would remember this extinct race - "It was the finale of the Final Solution."
However, the Jewish people's spirit triumphed over the Nazis' depravity, he continued.
"With human courage and divine assistance, spirit triumphed; the spirit of our people, who raised themselves up with scarred wings from the gruesome depths of the Holocaust. It was this spirit that triumphed," said the President.
"The miracle of our rebirth 75 years ago was the victory of light over darkness. We arose from dust and ashes. The yellow patch gave way to the flag of Israel. The furnaces gave way to the fires of creativity and construction," Herzog said.
One people, never enemies
Herzog's detailed description of the Nazi crimes, which he repeatedly called "an unprecedented evil," served as the backdrop to his heartfelt warning to Israel's citizens against drawing any comparison or equivalence with them. "For the Nazi monster, opinions within our nation made not the slightest difference. None of the ideologies, beliefs, or ways of life, none of the differences or varieties within our people, bore any meaning."
"At the high point of this sacred day, it seems that even the obvious must be stated: for the Nazi monster, opinions within our nation made not the slightest difference. None of the ideologies, beliefs, or ways of life, none of the differences or varieties within our people, bore any meaning," said the president.
"We are presently marking 75 years of Israeli rebirth. Seventy-five years of victory, in which the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and Israeli society, its back strait, stand and declare before the Nazi monster and those who would follow its path, even in this generation: you will not defeat us.
"For sisters and brothers, we are. Yes, brethren who know how to argue and disagree. But never haters. Never enemies. We are one people, and one people we shall remain, brought together not only by a painful history but also by our shared, hope-filled future and fate."
He closed his speech by calling Israel "a nation who, as long as it still breathes, will continue marching forth and proclaiming: Hineni! We are here! Here! Still, we live! Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel live!
"May the memories of our brother and sisters, victims of the terrible Holocaust, be preserved and bound in our nation’s heart, from generation to generation, forevermore."