Friday, April 20, 2012

Yom HaShoah

Shalom, chaverim. I write this in a more solemn mood than usual, as we've just finished Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, here in Israel. "HaShoah" translates into English as "The Catastrophe," which is how Israelis refer to the Holocaust. It usually occurs on the 27th day of Nissan, one of the months of the Jewish calendar. In 2012, it happened to be on April 19th.

As you can imagine, Yom HaShoah is not a happy occasion. Memorial ceremonies are held everywhere, and it is considered very bad form to play loud music or have parties of any kind. Restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other places of public entertainment are closed. Even the television stations (cable included) stop broadcasting their normal programs, and either show only Holocaust-related programming or broadcast nothing at all. In the U.S., the History Channel routinely airs excellent documentaries on this subject. However, you can also view, for free, extensive video interviews of nearly 52,000 Holocaust survivors through the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation Institute's YouTube channel.

On Yom HaShoah at 10:00 a.m. Jerusalem time, the entire country comes to a complete stop. Traffic stops, people stop...everything stops. Air raid sirens are set off everywhere for two minutes, during which people stand in silence, remembering both the victims and the heroes of the Holocaust.

Elul and I were in Ulpan at the time the sirens began. It was both sad and eerie; you could feel the effect of more than seven million people concentrating on one thing at one time, and experience the complete hush of an entire nation, except for those sirens. Below is a link to a video that gives you a good idea of both the sound and the mood of this extraordinary moment. And as usual, if you can't see the video link I'm referring to, please go directly to my blog's homepage at

Every year since 1989, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) performs a ceremony called "Everyone Has a Name." In it, in cooperation with Yad Vashem, all the names of Holocaust victims are read aloud. This year's ceremony was marred by an accident which occurred the day before, during rehearsals for a ceremony for Israel's upcoming Independence Day. A large lighting rig collapsed, killing one person and injuring five others. The victim was a young woman, just twenty years old, who was a solider in the Israeli Defense Force.

But, chaverim, what is left of life is still going on, and there is still sweetness in the world. We the living can always reaffirm our commitment to always remember, and to never forget--both the depths of depravity and cruelty of that time, but also the heights of heroism and the greatness of the human spirit. Shabbat shalom.

1 comment:

  1. I stopped and stood on that day too. Thank you for the additional information. (I just found your link on the SL forums!)


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