by Judy Lash Balint www.jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com
May 5, 2005
Last night's official ceremonies commemorating the beginning of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Day at Yad Vashem opened in unusually cold and windy conditions.
Most of the participants took advantage of the thick blankets handed out by thoughtful organizers. A large contingent of survivors and their children from abroad took part and listened to the speeches through simultaneous translation earphones.
As usual, the most moving part of the ceremony was the torch lighting by six survivors. Each one got a 3 minute video profile that only began to skim the surface of their incredible stories. From the French born doctor who was raised Catholic, to the Russian Crimean War vet who immigrated in 1974, to the Dutch woman who survived 8 concentration camps--all have now raised children and grandchildren here in Israel.
This morning at precisely 10 a.m. the sirens wailed for that exclusively Israeli happening when the entire country stands still for two full minutes to commemorate the Six Million.
Traffic comes to a halt, business ceases, everyone stands to attention in a unified act of remembrance.
Next week, we'll do the same thing for the soldiers who fell in defending the state.
Meantime,places of entertainment are closed for the day. Radio and TV broadcast exclusively programs about any and every aspect of the Shoah, and Arik Sharon flew off to Poland to take part in the March of the Living, together with survivors and their grandkids who are now serving in the Israeli army.
Only slip up in the program there was that the official ceremony concluded without singing the Hatikva. As some in the crowd spontaneously started singing, the Israeli choir (almost all Russian speaking immigrants) picked up the hint and burst into a full blown rendition of the Israeli national anthem.