Now Playing: Theme to Schindler's List
There are so few words to describe the emotions that I've been having during the past 24 hours. Today is Yom HaShoah. Today, we remember the 6 million Jews that perished in the Holocaust. Today, we remember that 11 million people died in unthinkable, inhumane, and despicable ways...for no real reason, other than extermination. Today, we remember, because if we forget, it is as if we are killing them a second time. Today, we remember.
Israel is a country of ceremonies. That's how they celebrate holidays here, and have memorials...they have ceremonies. Last night there was a ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum here in Jerusalem, and my friends and I watched it live on TV last night. At one point the ceremony, they had 6 survivors on stage and they played films about their stories and they lit candles. These people made it real for me. One woman in particular, who had gone on after the Shoah to become a midwife and deliver hundreds of babies, she made me think a lot. What could have been? What kind of human potential had been wasted when 6 million people were killed? Who among them would have been doctors, or lawyers, or rabbis? What if someone among them had found a cure for cancer? Or what if one among them would have gone on to produce brilliant works of literature or an aria, or what it they could have saved just another human life in their midst.....what was wasted when those 6 million were killed? To kill 6 million, in order to exterminate a peoplehood, is to cause an unnatural rift in the wave of human existence. I couldn't help but think last night...what are the rammifications of that unnatural rift?
Perhaps it was easiest for me to deal with that last night, because I couldn't begin to deal with questions of why, or how. I've learned about the Shoah in Suday school. I even took a course in college. But nothing prepared me for today.
Today, we went to school and prayed. We had a very somber morning service. Then, the most extraordinary thing happened. A number of us went out to the street to hear the siren ring at 10 am and watch the world stop. A few of my friends and I went to a very busy intersection near school. We waited for a few minutes, and finally the siren went off, just as expected. What was so extraordinary was the power that I felt in that moment. I looked all around me, and cars that were stopped in the middle of the street. People had gotten out of their cars and were standing next to them. A man, driving a huge truck got out of the cab of his truck and stood next to it. I looked in every direction, and everyone had stopped their lives in that minute to remember.
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I couldn't breath. I began to gasp and cry. There was so much power in the act of just remembering. I put my hand over my mouth, afraid of my own emotions, trying so hard to supress the urge to burst, right there, into tears. I will never be able to explain the utter sadness and loss that I felt in that moment, when the entire world, it seemed to me, had stopped in order to remember something so tragic and so unbelievable. I will never be able to recreate that moment. But I will carry it with me always. The power of remembering, in that moment, was ulike anything I'd ever felt in my whole life.
We then went back to school where we had a ceremony in the courtyard. Stories were told, songs were sung, we grieved communally, and then we sang Hatikvah, the Israeli Anthem. Hatikvah - "The Hope". After all, isn't Israel where many of the surviving Jews went after the Shoah, when they felt they had nowhere else to go? Hasn't Israel been the hope of the Jews throughout history, as our home, and our land? I stood, and I proudly sang Hatikvah, with tears in my eyes and mixed emotions about being in Israel, and what it means to me as a Jew to be living in a Jewish land, in this Jewish state. Yes, I will always remember today.
The day feels heavy for me, somehow. With every thing I do and every thing I think, in the back of my mind, I remember. It took me a while today to process all of this. To think about all the stories and all the untold stories. To think about the loss, and to think about what could have been...all of the wasted potential.
I've spent a lifetime listening to stories of the Shoah, learning about it, even celebrating Yom HaShoah. But today, I can never forget the feeling of today, here in Israel, for as long as I live. Yes, I will always remember.