Yesterday was Yom Hashoa–Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Judaism, the day begins at night, and in the few hours leading up to the eve of the night marking the beginning of Yom Hashoa, we listened to a Holocaust survivor speak about her story.
Afterwards, we learned about the last words that many Jews sent to their families right before they got slaughtered, and it hit me: Imagine writing your last words to your friends or to your family–the last words of yours that they will be cherishing for the rest of their lives. The pressure of writing them quickly, but the pressure of saying the right thing. The pressure of passing on your legacy but yet your love. The pressure of putting a last hug into a letter. Reading the last words of those alive no longer was really haunting for me–we were reading their private letters, not intended for our eyes, but, at the same time, we were reading them to better understand the monstrosities that occurred and the emotions that our people went through.
The night of Yom Hashoa, we went to a טקס (tekkes), a ceremony, at Yad Vashem, where President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the Shoa. We listened to the stories of six survivors, and at the end of each story, the respective survivor lit a torch–a torch to symbolize eternity and strength. Not only is our people, עם ישראל, strong, but we are stronger than strength. We have defied too many finite ends to be simply called a people of “strength.” We are a robust people; we are a nation made up of iron.
The day of Yom Hashoa, at ten am, we rose with the rest of the country and stood in silence while the nationwide siren rung. We, along with the entire state of Israel, reminisced for all those lost souls, but we also recognized the immense גבורה that our people are built of.
We then had our own student-run טקס, after which we went to Har Herzl. There, we mentioned a few stories of Holocaust survivors who, after the war, came to Israel and were handed a gun when they came off of the boat into Israel. They were trained for a week, and then were soldiers, fighting for Israel’s independence. In the midst of the this overwhelmence of attempting to understand even a minute amount of the courage that so many Holocaust survivors had after leaving Eastern Europe, I looked down at my shoes and was taken aback. I was wearing the same black high-top Converse that I wore when I was visiting Auschwitz a year and a half ago, and, as my friend said, it was like I had come full circle–from Auschwitz to Eretz Yisrael. From the depths of unbelievable hell to the ground of freedom. From Poland to the Holy Land. And, not only that, but unlike the shoes of so, so many Jews who got murdered, mine carried me off of the ground drenched with innocent blood, and into Jerusalem–the city that every Jew yearns for in his heart and neshama.
Last Shabbat, there was a terrorist attack in Poway, California. Even though Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the rabbi of the congregation, lost his index fingers in the incident, he still had the courage to say that “We will be strong.” We will be strong. No matter what, we will be strong. We will be tough. We will be fierce. We will be mighty. We will be infinite.
This Yom Hashoa was the first one that, for me, felt like I knew that it should. It felt right. It felt fulfilling. It felt powerful. And I know that, next week, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut will feel even more so.
We, the Jewish people, will continue to show off our Jewish pride for eternity. We will continue to be immovable in terms of strength for eternity. We will continue to be for eternity.
We’re not going anywhere.
Am Yisrael Chai and Shabbat Shalom🇮🇱