We just experienced the annual siren for Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are few things as powerful in the world as knowing that your entire country is standing still – literally stopping whatever they are doing – in unison, at the same moment, to remember. Today, as I took my walk, I was thinking about Holocaust Remembrance Day, about what it means to me and about my life today. Josh and I are both lucky, and I think a bit unusual, to have no family that went through the Holocaust. All of my grandparents were born in America, or came to America shortly after birth. This means that I have to find other ways to think about the Holocaust and to honor the people who lived – and died – in this unbelievable time. While I was walking today, this is what came to mind.
I am the answer to the Holocaust.
The very fact that I was walking on Jewish soil – in my Jewish homeland – is the answer to the Holocaust.
My Jewish children are the answer.
My Israeli adopted soldier, and the many, many like him, is the answer.
We are the living, breathing answer to this atrocity.
How powerful it is to realize that the sheer fact that I live here, in Israel, screams out to Hitler that he didn’t win.
It doesn’t erase what happened, and it doesn’t stave the incredible wounds that the people who went through this atrocity endured – but it is a living, breathing proof of the strength and dream of the Jewish people. And to be part of that gives me goosebumps when I think about it.
I was reading an interesting article last week about an older man who came here after the Holocaust. He said that Holocaust Memorial Day had an incredible impact on him a few years ago when his son rose in the ranks to be the head of the Israeli army. This is the answer to the Holocaust – this shocking contrast between the unspeakable horrors that our people endured and the building of a country to ensure that such atrocities never reoccur.
Today, it’s truly mind boggling how necessary these reminders are with the events like the Durban conference and the hate-filled words from Ahmadinejad and those like him.
I often reflect on a survivor that I knew when Holocaust Remembrance Day returns each year. When we lived in Israel after college, Josh and I befriended a lovely woman in Kiryat Shmona named Esther. We would go to her house to talk to her and to keep her company. Esther was housebond and struggling with diabetes and other issues. Her husband, Eliezer, was often there as well, and they were sweet, gentle people. They had both survived the Holocaust and had shown up in pre-State Israel by themselves, completely alone and bereft of family. They built a life, had children and lived in a nice, small house in Kiryat Shmona.
One day, we arrived at their house and there was a feeling of intense and oppressive mourning. It was as if someone had died. I couldn’t figure out what was going on at first, and then I remembered that it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. The house was filled with their ghosts and with their memories. I will never forget that experience or the feeling of being with Esther and Eliezer on that day.
While life here in Israel isn’t always easy, and we are constantly reminded of those who hate us and want to see us obliterated near and far – it is amazing to feel that your life – the simple act of breathing and waking up in the morning – is an answer to history.
We are the answer.
The fact that I have five beautiful boys who are living and learning in Israel is the answer.
We aren’t going away – and our lives are a living testament to the continuation of the Jewish people, in the homeland of our ancestors – in the homeland that those who perished in the Holocaust dreamed of having, and never got to see.
We are here as a testament to them, and we’re staying.