Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, a national memorial day.
Before we went on break at the Ulpan at 10:00 a.m., our teacher Dina explained to us what was going to happen. We stood in silence in the classroom as the sound of a siren could be heard loudly outside for two minutes. For those two minutes across the entire country of Israel, everybody stopped. Cars and busses pulled over. No planes took off. People even stopped walking and stood still. Everybody remembers the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany, and we also remember the Jewish resistance of the time.
I closed my eyes and practiced a little meditation. Concentrated on the rising and falling of my belly. And I remembered these people I never knew, the fear they felt, the horrors they endured, the rich lives they lost.
You know, my mother’s family (from Russia and Romania) was in America already since the 19th century. And my father’s family isn’t Jewish. Direct impact from the Holocaust has never been a part of my life. I see movies like “The Pianist,” and I know: THAT’S ME. In a way, I never feel more Jewish than when I see a movie like that and know in my bones that those enemies hate ME and would want to do that to ME b/c I am a JEW. But it’s always been like theoretical or imaginary to me, as real as I know it was.
There are certainly other, happier ways to feel Jewish identity and pride than standing with your entire country and thinking about the horrors inflicted upon us b/t 64-68 years ago. But that is exactly what I felt: identifying with the people in the room with me – our Israeli teacher (born here), Jews from England and Brasil and Argentina and the Czech Republic and Russia and Ukraine and (former Soviet) Georgia and Hungary and France and America and Canada and South Africa – our whole room, our whole school, the whole city of Tel Aviv, the entire country and everyone in it, doing what we were doing, being still and remembering.
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