(April 12, 2018 / JNS) Yad Vashem commemorated its annual Yom Hashoah ceremonies and events on April 11 with the theme “70 Years of Remembering and Building: Holocaust Survivors and the State of Israel.”
At the remembrance center’s opening ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message to Iran and commented on the recent chemical attack in Syria. “I have a message for the leaders of Iran: Don’t test Israel’s resolve,” he said.
Netanyahu continued: “We saw Syrian children that were slaughtered by chemical weapons. One great lesson that has been with us since the Holocaust: Murderous evil that is not stood up against spreads rapidly and gradually, and threatens all of humanity.”
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev similarly referred to recent events in Syria at the memorial museum’s seminar for Israel’s State Attorney’s Office, saying that “in light of the horrific images emanating from Syria over recent days of the mass killing of civilians, including children, in the chemical attack, it would appear that the mechanisms and international bodies developed after the Holocaust to prevent the recurrence of crimes against humanity are failing.”
“The terrible scenes we are witnessing, right across our border, are a result of and continue to occur due to the indifference of the world. I call on the global community not to stand on the sidelines, but to act determinedly to put an end to the human suffering and provide humanitarian aid to the victims,” he added.
At the ceremony, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin referred to widespread anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world. He emphasized that “there was a Holocaust, and there are those who try to forget and deny the Holocaust, and the difference between the two is the truth itself. We will never extend a hand to those who disavow the truth or who try to obfuscate it. Not on the part of individuals or organizations, heads of parties or heads of state.”
Rivlin said “the Jewish people will forever bear the standard of combating anti-Semitism and racism. No political or economic interests can cause us to turn the other way.”
Anti-Semitism, he concluded, “will not disappear and has not disappeared, but we have changed, and we are now strong and secure.”
Also at the ceremony, a traditional memorial service included a recitation of Psalms, the Kaddish mourner’s prayer and “El Maleh Rachamim,” the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, chair of the Yad Vashem Council, kindled the memorial torch, while Holocaust survivors Mirjam Lapid, Shmuel Bogler, Thea Friedman, Raul Teitelbaum, Yisachar Dov Goldstein and Abba Noar lit another six torches. Short videos were shown about each of the survivors, available on the Yad Vashem website.
On Thursday morning, promptly after the two-minute siren that rang throughout Israel, a wreath-laying ceremony began at Yad Vashem, followed by the recitation of Holocaust victims’ names by the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein.
Throughout the day, Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies ran a variety of activities for educational groups from Israel and abroad. Special guided tours, exhibitions and behind-the-scenes gatherings were made open to the public.