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Full Cycle
by Judy Lash Balint
April 19, 2004

It wasn't planned that way, but at precisely 10 a.m this morning, as the siren sounds and the nation of Israel stops in its tracks to mark Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Day, Asher Yablok, 25, finds himself in the midst of explaining how he and his wife Shira had chosen the name of their first-born son.

Shmuel Yablok entered into the covenant of Abraham today as his maternal great-grandfather performed the brit milah on a day fraught with significance. Some sixty years after the Shoah, the day commemorating both the tragedy and the heroism of a generation of Jews now fading away, still packs high emotional meaning for many Israelis.

The significance of Shmuel's formal induction into the Jewish people on such a day is not lost on the dozens of friends and family who join in the simcha at Jerusalem's Gruss Yeshiva. Baby Shmuel, Asher continues to explain, as the two minute siren winds down during the celebratory meal following the brit, was named after his late grandfather, Sam Yablok, who in turn was named after HIS grandfather.

Sam and Frieda Yablok were not Holocaust survivors--they were young Zionists who independently left their homes in America and came to live in pre-state Palestine, where they met and married. Difficult years of economic and physical struggle forced them back to the US where they settled in Marietta, Ohio to raise their children in a Torah observant home. Today, as his son, Rabbi Benjamin Yablok observes, all Sam's grandchildren and great-grandchildren are observant Jews. Many of them are Jewish educators, transmitting the heritage that was nearly snuffed out during the Shoah.

Asher, a rabbinic student studying for the year in Jerusalem, and his wife Shira, a speech therapist, are surrounded by fellow students: lively young observant couples holding their first or second kids, four generations away from those who lived through the Shoah.

The sight might comfort those survivors who spend the day retelling their painful stories to the media and in schools. As all the radio stations play mournful music and TV channels broadcast Holocaust-related documentaries and dramas, flags on public buildings fly at half-staff. There's even a special radio program for those still seeking missing relatives to pronounce their names and place of birth, in the hope that someone might know their fate.

A street in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zev is dedicated and named for a Swiss Righteous Gentile who saved thousands of Jews, but the Swiss ambassador refuses to attend the ceremony since " the street is located in an area of Jerusalem incorporated into the city after 1967."

In his official remarks at Yad Vashem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon claims that Israel has learned the lessons of the past and would never again tolerate attacks on Jews.

`We shall never allow the murderers of today or those of tomorrow to harm our people," Sharon says in his address. "Anyone who dares to do that will be struck down."

During a visit to the Yad Vashem memorial earlier in the day, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the commander of Israel's armed forces said Hamas leader Abdul Rantisi was a Holocaust denier who claimed present-day Israelis were more evil than wartime Nazis.

"One of his recent comments was that comparing the Jews to the Nazis is an insult to Nazis," Yaalon noted.

Psychologist Dr. Irwin Mansdorf points out that "Nazi philosophy was promoted by fiery, emotional rhetoric that inflamed the people. Today, the new evil of terror finds a home in the rhetoric of those that distort and misrepresent truth no less than the Nazis did.

Then, cloaked in the clothes of medicine, Josef Mengele carried out some of the most monstrous crimes of the century. Today's terror sees physicians like Al-Qaida fugitive Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Hamas's "martyred" Abdel Aziz Rantisi involved in equally heinous and deplorable actions.

Then, the Nazis immersed their children, the Hitlerjugend, into a racist and hateful creed that fueled the criminal acts perpetrated against an innocent people.

Now, as then, there are societies where children are taught to hate and kill, where leaders and teachers preach dying for the cause and where the masses follow like lemmings."

At just eight days old, Shmuel Yablok's life is already set on a totally opposite trajectory. Showered with blessings to learn Torah, marry and carry out good deeds; with parents who are so full of love of God, each other and their child, and grandparents who are distinguished teachers and doctors dedicated to Tikkun Olam, Shmuel Yablok's brit on this day couldn't make the meaning of Yom Hashoah any clearer.