Sunday, April 15, 2007

Remembering “Yom Hashoah” (Holocaust)

Every year, soon after the end of the Passover Holidays, Jews all over the world, and especially in the State of Israel, observe a day of remembering for one of the worst periods in the history of the Jewish People.

Known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah in Hebrew, all normal activities are altered and in Israel, places of entertainment, including restaurants, theatres and like are closed. Programs dealing with this subject are conducted in Synagogues, community centers, schools, etc., while television programs run ceremonies, interviews, movies and other features to bring forth various aspects of the period which ran from the mid 1930’s until the end of World War II.

We are now seven years into the new millennium and more than 66 years after the last shots were fired in Europe and the remnants of the cream of European Jewry were finally set free from the man-made hell of concentration camps all over northern and central Europe. For more than six million Jews, however, liberation came too late, as they had been swallowed up in the inferno created by a country that was once considered to be one of the most law-abiding and cultured in the World.

The Holocaust for the Jewish People is not the only disaster that has stricken Mankind – within the framework of man’s inhumanity to man. Literally thousands of events are evident throughout recorded history, ranging from conquests by the great empires of the earth, religious carnage by events such as the Crusades, rise of Islam, etc., Spanish Inquisition, and, of course, wars. Since the beginning of the 20th century, when Mankind was supposed to be more enlightened and cultured some of the worst atrocities have occurred, and in themselves, were no less horrible than the Holocaust itself. Ranging from the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians in 1918, to the Japanese persecution of the Korean and Chinese peoples, not to mention those living in South East Asia; the mayhem in various African countries, such as Rwanda, Liberia, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Sudan, where millions have died horrible deaths; the Khmer Rouge carnage in Cambodia; and the events in various Balkan countries including, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Kosovo province of Serbia-Yugoslavia, the Chechnya province of Russia; the list literally goes on and on.

And despite all of this, it was recently announced in the U.K. that public schools there will no longer include studies of the Holocaust in their study curriculum, as this offends Muslims who are denying that the Holocaust ever happened!

For the Jewish People, whether living in Israel or in the Diaspora, life is never 100% secure, even in democracies such as England, America, Canada, etc. Israelis know all too well the alternative to being unable to defend oneself. As a country established for Jews to live in after being hounded and persecuted for centuries, Israel form the outset has had to defend itself from its “neighbors”, some of whom actually welcomed Jews in former years. In war after war, terrorist atrocity after atrocity, and recently Intifada after Intifada, the Jews of Israel have literally been fighting for survival. With one of the largest population of Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors, the importance of Yom HaShoah carries on year after year, in order that new generations of Jews will continue to spread the message of “Never Again”.

"Never Again”: the meaning of this expression is symbolic in the culture of Israelis, in that Jews will never again allow themselves to be weak and defenseless and at the mercies on the peoples of the countries in which they live. Never again will Jews be forced to give up their faith and religious practices. Never again will Jews be considered as pariahs, stateless wanderers, being forbidden to live in certain areas, and barred from working in certain trades and professions, etc.

But being strong has its price, and this price is particularly and painfully felt in the State of Israel, especially within the past few years. Both physical and economic hardships have become a part of Israeli lives, with more and more wars and terrorism attacks.

Despite all of the adversities, Israel continues to carry on, and likewise, Jews all over the world continue to have this Homeland to come to if they should ever need to flee their present places of dwelling.

By continuing to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, Jews continue to be strong.

Because once they begin to forget this segment of their past, it creates the seeds of it happening again in the future. Already many non-Jews all over the world, like the example of the U.K., preach denial of Holocaust, saying it was a fabrication to create sympathy towards the Jews.

The truth is stronger, however, and millions of Gentiles join their Jewish brethren annually to commemorate this event. For they too know that “he who forgets the lessons of history will certainly be doomed to repeat it”.

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