Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyau Named to Time’s List of 100 Most Influential People in the World



Bibi’s back on Time list of 100 most influential

Source: JTA, 4-19-12

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made Time magazine’s 2012 list of the 100 most influential people in the world for the second year in a row.

Netanyahu is called an “iconic, strong and determined leader who has excelled during a lifetime of service to the state of Israel” in a profile written by U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader in the House of Representatives.

“At this perilous moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the right leader for Israel — and the right partner for America,” Cantor wrote….READ MORE

The 100 Most Influential People in the World

Benjamin Netanyahu

They are the people who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world. Meet the breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons who make up this year’s TIME 100

Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister
Oliver Weiken / Pool / AP


Israel has had its share of transformational leaders who are comfortable on the world’s stage, dealing with their nation’s often oversize challenges. Benjamin Netanyahu is one of these iconic Israelis, a strong, determined leader who has excelled during a lifetime of service to the state of Israel. Bibi’s accomplishments and service as a soldier, a diplomat, an economic reformer who took on the difficult and politically perilous task of challenging the status quo, and a two-time Prime Minister rank him among the world’s great leaders.

Now, at a time of tremendous international instability and growing danger, Prime Minister N
etanyahu, 62, has provided a compelling and reasoned exposition of one of the gravest threats facing the world today. He deserves credit for drawing attention to the threat Iran poses to Israel, to America, to the region, to its own people and to the free world. Confronting Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terrorism is an urgent task for all of us. At this perilous moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the right leader for Israel — and the right partner for America.

Cantor is the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives

Full Text Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at Holocaust Remembrance Day / Yom Hashoah Ceremony at Yad Vashem



PM Netanyahu’s Speech at Holocaust Remembrance Day

Photo by GPO

Source: PMO, 4-18-12

Yesterday morning, I visited an old-age home for Holocaust survivors.  There, I met Idit Yapo, an amazing woman of 104, clear and lucid.  Idit fled Germany shortly after Hitler gained power, in 1934.

I met 89-year-old Esther Nadiv, one of Mendele’s twins.  She was reading a book, Golda Meir’s biography, and she told me, with a glint in her eye, she said:  “I am so proud, so very proud to be a part of the State of Israel which is in constant development.”

I met Hanoch Mandelbaum, an 89-year-old survivor of Bergen-Belsen.  Shortly after he came to Israel, as a young carpenter, he helped construct the desk upon which Ben Gurion signed the Declaration of Independence.  That is MiSho’a liTkuma – from holocaust to resurrection.

And I met Elisheva Lehman, an 88 year-old Holocaust survivor from Holland, who was a music teacher.

I asked Elisheva if she would play something for us and she did.  She enthusiastically played “Am Yisrael Chai” and we all sung together.  It was quite emotional.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Am Yisrael Chai [The nation of Israel lives]

Our enemies tried to bury the Jewish future, but it was reborn in the land of our forefathers.  Here, we built a foundation for a new beginning of freedom, hope, and creation.  Year after year, decade after decade, we built the foundations of our country, and we will continue to yearly strengthen the pillars of our national life.

On this day, when our entire nation gathers together to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered, we must fulfill our most sacred obligation.

This obligation is not merely an obligation to remember the past.  It is an obligation to learn its lessons, and, most importantly, to apply them to the present in order to secure the future of our people.  We must remember the past and secure the future by applying the lessons of the past.

This is especially true for this generation – a generation that once again is faced with calls to annihilate the Jewish State.

One day, I hope that the State of Israel will enjoy peace with all the countries and all the peoples in our region.  One day, I hope that we will read about these calls to destroy the Jews only in history books and not in daily newspapers.

But that day has not yet come.

Today, the regime in Iran openly calls and determinedly works for our destruction.  And it is feverishly working to develop atomic weapons to achieve that goal.

I know that there are those who do not like when I speak such uncomfortable truths.  They prefer that we not speak of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat.  They say that such language, even if true, only sows fear and panic.

I ask, have these people lost all faith in the people of Israel?

Do they think that this nation, which has overcome every danger, lacks the strength to confront this new threat?

Did the State of Israel not triumph over existential threats when it was far less powerful than it is today?  Did its leaders have any qualms about saying the truth?

David Ben Gurion told the people of Israel the truth about the existential dangers they faced in 1948 when five Arab armies tried to snuff Israel out in its cradle.

Levi Eshkol told the people of Israel the truth in 1967 when a noose was being placed around Israel’s neck and we stood alone to face our fate.

And when they heard these truths, did the people of Israel panic or did they unite to thwart the dangers?  Were we paralyzed with fear or did we do what was necessary to protect ourselves.

I believe in the people of Israel – and this belief is based on our experiences.  I believe that the people of Israel can handle the truth.  And I believe that they we have the capability to defeat those who seek to harm us.

Those who dismiss Iran’s threats as exaggerated or as mere idle posturing have learned nothing from the Holocaust.  But we should not be surprised.

There have always been those among us who prefer to mock those who tell uncomfortable truths than squarely face the truth themselves.

That is how Zev Jabotinsky was received when he warned the Jews of Poland of the looming Holocaust.

This is what he said in 1938, in Warsaw:

“It is already THREE years that I am calling upon you, Polish Jewry, who are the crown of World Jewry.  I continue to warn you incessantly that a catastrophe is coming closer.  I became grey and old in these years, my heart bleeds, that you, dear brother and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spit its all-consuming lava…  I see that you are not seeing this because you are immersed and sunk in your daily worries…  Listen to me in this twelfth hour:  In the name of G-d!  Let anyone of you save himself, as long as there is still time, and time there is very little.”

But the leading Jewish intellectuals of the day ridiculed Jabotinsky, and rather than heed his warning, they attacked him.

This is what Sholem Asch, one of our nation’s greatest writers, said about him:
“What Jabotinsky is now doing in Poland is going too far.  His statement is detrimental to Zionism and to the vital interests of our people… It is disgraceful that these are leaders of a nation.”

I know there are also those who believe that the unique evil of the Holocaust should never be invoked in discussing other threats facing the Jewish people.

To do so, they argue, is to belittle the Holocaust and to offend its victims.

I totally disagree.  On the contrary.  To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth – that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people – that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons.

Not only does the Prime Minister of Israel have the right, when speaking of these existential dangers, to invoke the memory of a third of our nation which was annihilated.  It is his duty.

There is a memorable scene in Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah that explains this obligation more than anything.

In the harsh existence in the Warsaw Ghetto, Leon Feiner of the Bund and Menachem Kirschenbaum of the General Zionists met with Jan Karski from the Polish World War II Resistance Movement.

Jan Karski was a decent, sensitive man, and they begged him to appeal to the conscience of the world against the Nazi crimes.  They described what was happening, they showed him, but to no avail.

They said: “Help us.  We have no country of our own, we have no government, and we even have no voice among the nations”

They were right.

Seventy years ago the Jewish people did not have the national capacity to summon the nations, nor the military might to defend itself.

But today things are different.

Today we have an army.

We have the ability, the duty and the determination to defend ourselves.

As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never shy from speaking the truth before the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some.

I speak the truth at the United Nations; I speak the truth in Washington DC, the capital of our great friend, the United States, and in other important capitals; And I speak the truth here in Jerusalem, on the grounds of Yad VaShem which are saturated with remembrance.

I will continue to speak the truth to the world, but first and foremost I must speak it to my own people. I know that my people is strong enough to hear the truth.

The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat of the State of Israel.

The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an political threat to other countries throughout the region and a grave threat to the world peace.

The truth is that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons.

It is the duty of the whole world, but above and beyond, it is OUR duty.

The memory of the Holocaust goes beyond holding memorial services; it is not merely a historical recollection.

The memory of the Holocaust obligates us to apply the lessons of the past to ensure the basis of our future.

We will never bury our heads in the sand.

Am Yisrael Chai, veNetzach Yisrael Lo Yeshaker
[The Nation of Israel Lives, and the Eternal one of Israel does not Lie]

דברי ראש הממשלה בעצרת הפתיחה הממלכתית לציון יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה

יום רביעי כ”ו ניסן תשע”ב

-הטקסט עבר התאמת עריכה-

על ההר הזה התרחש היום אסון כבד. כפי שאמר נשיאנו, איבדנו היום קצינה צעירה ומבטיחה, הילה בצלאלי זיכרונה לברכה, ואיבדנו חייל בהנדסה קרבית שליבו נדם. אנו שולחים את תנחומינו כאן למשפחות ואנחנו שולחים גם את איחולי ההחלמה, החלמה מהירה לפצועים.

מכובדי, נשיא המדינה שמעון פרס, יושב ראש הכנסת ראובן ריבלין, נשיא בית המשפט העליון השופט גרוניס, שרים, חברי כנסת, יושב ראש הנהלת יד ושם אבנר שלו, יושב ראש מועצת יד ושם הרב ישראל לאו, הרב הראשי לישראל הרב יונה מצגר, הרב הראשי לישראל, הראשון לציון, הרב שלמה עמאר. ראש עיריית ירושלים ניר ברקת, אנשי סגל א’ וזקן הסגל הדיפלומטי, שגריר קמרון בישראל. ניצולי שואה מהארץ ומן העולם, חסידי אומות העולם ומשפחותיהם. קציני וחיילי צה”ל, מפקדי ושוטרי משטרת ישראל, קהל נכבד.

אתמול בבוקר ביקרתי בבית אבות שבו מתגוררים ניצולי שואה. פגשתי שם את עידית יאפּוֹ, אישה מדהימה, היא בת 104, צלולה, חדה. עידית נמלטה מגרמניה זמן קצר אחרי שהיטלר עלה לשלטון ב-1934. פגשתי את אסתר נדיב, בת 89, אחת מתאומי מנגלה, במקרה הזה תאומות. עידית סיפרה לי בעיניים בורקות, תוך כדי שהיא קוראת ספר, ביוגרפיה של גולדה מאיר, היא אמרה ‘אני כל כך גאה, אני כל כך גאה להיות חלק מהמדינה שלנו, המדינה המתפתחת שלנו’. פגשתי שם את חנוך מנדלבאום, ניצול ברגן-בלזן, בן 89. זמן קצר אחרי שהוא הגיע לארץ, הוא עזר כנגר צעיר לבנות את השולחן שעליו חתם בן-גוריון על מגילת העצמאות. ממש משואה לתקומה. פגשתי גם את אלישבע להמן, ניצולת שואה בת 88 מהולנד, שהייתה מורה למוסיקה. שאלתי את אלישבע אם היא מוכנה להשמיע לנו קטע נגינה והיא נענתה ברצון, אפילו הייתי אומר בשקיקה. היא ניגנה. היא ניגנה “עם ישראל חי”, ואנחנו כולנו שרנו יחד בהתרגשות גדולה. גבירותיי ורבותיי, עם ישראל חי.

אויבינו ניסו לקבור את העתיד היהודי, אבל עתידנו נולד מחדש בארץ אבותינו. כאן בנינו בסיס להתחלה חדשה של חופש ותקווה ויצירה. שנה אחרי שנה, עשור אחר עשור, יצקנו וביססנו את יסודות מדינתנו, ונמשיך לחזק מדי שנה את עמודי התווך של חיינו הלאומיים.

ביום הזה, היום שבו העם כולו מתכנס יחד כדי לזכור את מוראות השואה ואת ששת המיליונים מבני עמנו שנרצחו בה, עלינו לממש חובה עליונה. והחובה זו איננה רק לזכור את העבר, אלא גם ללמוד את לקחיו, והחשוב ביותר – ליישם לקחים אלה, וזאת כדי להמשיך ולהבטיח את עתיד עמנו.
זה כתוב פה מאחוריי, זוכרים את העבר, מבטיחים את העתיד, על ידי יישום לקחי העבר. והדבר זה נכון במיוחד לדורנו שעומד שוב בפני הקריאה להשמיד את מדינת היהודים.

ידידיי, אני מקווה שיום אחד מדינת ישראל תחיה בשלום עם כל העמים וכל המדינות באזורנו. אני מקווה שיבוא יום שבו נלמד על הקריאות להשמדת ישראל בשיעורי ההיסטוריה בלבד ונפסיק לשמוע אותן בתקשורת היומיומית. אבל היום הזה טרם הגיע. כיום קורא ופועל המשטר האיראני בגלוי ובנחרצות להשמדתנו. והוא פועל בקדחתנות לפתח נשק גרעיני כדי להשיג מטרה זו. עכשיו, אני יודע שישנם אלה שאינם אוהבים שאני אומר אמיתות לא נוחות מסוג זה. הם מעדיפים שלא נדבר על איראן גרעינית כאיום קיומי. הם טוענים שאמירה כזאת, גם אם היא נכונה, רק זורעת פחד ובהלה.

אני שואל, האם האנשים האלה איבדו כל אמון בעם ישראל? האם הם באמת חושבים שלעם הזה, שהתגבר על כל סכנה, אין מספיק כוחות כדי להתמודד עם סכנה חדשה זו? הרי מדינת ישראל התמודדה בהצלחה מול סכנת קִיוּמִיוּת כשהייתה לאין ערוך פחות חזקה ממה שהיא היום, ואני חייב להגיד שמנהיגיה לא היססו לומר לעם את האמת. דוד בן-גוריון אמר לעם את האמת לגבי הסכנה הקיומית שעמדה בפנינו. הוא אמר את זה ב-1948, כשחמשת צִבְאוֹת-ערב ניסו להשמיד את מדינת ישראל שזה עתה נולדה. לוי אשכול אמר לעם את האמת ב- 1967, כשעניבת החנק הלכה והתהדקה סביב צווארה של ישראל, ועמדנו לבד לגורלנו. וכשהעם שמע את האמת, האם הוא נתקף בבהלה, או שהוא התאחד כדי להדוף את הסכנה? האם הפחד שיתק אותנו, או שעשינו את מה שהיה נחוץ כדי להגן על עצמנו?

אני מאמין בעם ישראל, והאמונה שלי איננה אמונת סתם, היא  מבוססת על ניסיון חיינו. אני מאמין בכוחו של עם ישראל להתמודד עם האמת. אני מאמין בכוחנו להגן על עצמנו מול מבקשי נפשנו. אנשים שמבטלים את האיום האיראני כגחמה או כהגזמה לא למדו דבר מהשואה. אין זה חדש. תמיד היו אנשים בקרבנו שהעדיפו ללגלג על אלו שאומרים אמיתות לא נוחות, מאשר להתמודד עם האמת כפי שהיא. כך נהגו כלפי ז’בוטינסקי, כשהזהיר את יהודי פולין מפני השואה המתקרבת.

הנה מה שהוא אמר ב-1938 בוורשה:
“מזה שלוש שנים אני פונה אליכם, יהודי פולין, בקריאה. אני מזהיר אתכם בלא הפוגה”, כך אמר, “שהקטסטרופה מתקרבת. שערותיי הלבינו וזקנתי בשנים אלו, כי ליבי שותת דם על שאתם, אחים ואחיות יקרים, אינכם רואים את הר הגעש שיתחיל תכף לפלוט את אש ההשמדה. אני רואה מראה איום. הזמן קצר בו אפשר עוד להינצל. אני יודע: אינכם רואים,
כי אתם טרודים ובהולים בדאגות היום-יום. האזינו לדבריי, למען השם. הזמן קצר”.

הוגי דעות מובילים בקרב עמנו באותה העת זלזלו בדברים הללו של ז’בוטינסקי, ובמקום להקשיב לאזהרתו הם תקפו אותו. הנה מה שאמר עלי אז אחד הסופרים המוכשרים של עמנו: “מה שז’בוטינסקי עושה עתה בפולין עובר כל גבול. הודעתו מזיקה לציונות ולאינטרסים החיוניים של עמנו. אוי לאומה שאלה הם מנהיגיה”.

אני יודע שישנם אנשים שמאמינים שאסור להזכיר את הרוע הייחודי של השואה כשמדברים על האיומים העכשוויים שעומדים בפני העם היהודי. הם טוענים שלעשות זאת משמעו לזלזל בשואה ולהעליב את קורבנותיה. אני שולל לחלוטין גישה זו. להיפך, להירתע מלומר את האמת – שהיום כמו אז ישנם אלה שרוצים להשמיד מיליוני יהודים – זה זלזול בשואה, זה עלבון לקורבנותיה, זו התעלמות מלקחיה. לראש ממשלת ישראל לא רק מותר להעלות את זכר השמדת שליש מעמנו כשהוא מדבר על סכנות קיומיות לעמנו, זוהי חובתו.

יש קטע בלתי נשכח בסרט הדוקומנטרי של קלוד לאנצמן – “שואה”, שמבהיר את הסיבה לחובה הזו יותר מכל. בימים הקשים של גטו ורשה, נפגשו ליאון פיינר מהבונד ומנחם קירשנבוים מהציונים הכללים עם נציג המחתרת הפולנית, יאן קארסקי. קארסקי היה איש הגון, איש רגיש. הם התחננו בפניו שיזעיק את מצפון העולם נגד הפשעים הנאצים. הוא תיארו לו, הראו לו את הדברים הנוראים, אך ללא הועיל. והם אמרו לו: עזור לנו, אין לנו מדינה שלנו, אין לנו ממשלה, אין לנו אפילו קול בין העמים. והם צדקו. לפני שבעים שנה לא הייתה לעם היהודי לא היכולת המדינית להזעיק את האומות ולא היכולת הצבאית להגן על עצמו. אבל היום ברוך השם המציאות שונה. היום יש לנו מדינה, היום יש לנו צבא. יש לנו היכולת, החובה והנחישות להגן על עצמנו.

כראש ממשלת ישראל לעולם לא אירתע מלומר את האמת לאומות, גם כשאמת זאת איננה נוחה. אני אומר את האמת באו”ם, אני אומר את האמת בוושינגטון, בירת ידידתנו הגדולה ארצות הברית, וגם בבירות חשובות אחרות, ואני אומר את האמת כאן בירושלים, על האדמה רווית הזיכרון של יד ושם. ואמשיך לומר את האמת לעולם, אבל בראש ובראשונה לעמי, שאני יודע שהוא חזק דיו כדי לשמוע את האמת. האמת היא שאיראן חמושה בנשק גרעיני, היא איום קיומי על מדינת ישראל. האמת היא שאיראן גרעינית מהווה איום מדיני גם על מדינות אחרות באזור ואיום חמור על השלום העולמי. והאמת היא שחובה למנוע מאיראן להשיג נשק גרעיני. זוהי חובתו של העולם, אבל מעל לכל זוהי חובתנו.

זיכרון השואה איננו רק עניין טקסי, זה איננו רק עניין של זיכרון היסטורי. זיכרון השואה הוא ציווי מעשי להפיק את לקחי העבר, כדי להבטיח את אושיות העתיד. לעולם לא נטמון את ראשנו בחול. עם ישראל חי. ונצח ישראל לא ישקר.

Israel Brief April 18, 2012: Thousands of events and ceremonies will take place in Israel to Honor the Victims Mark Holocaust Memorial Day



Events to Honor the Victims Mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Thousands of events and ceremonies will take place in Israel on Thursday, Holocaust Memorial Day.
Israeli youth at Auschwitz

Israeli youth at Auschwitz
Flash 90

Thousands of events and ceremonies will take place in Israel on Thursday, Holocaust Memorial Day. After a siren sounds at 10 AM – at which time Israelis stand at attention, reflecting on the tragedy of the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust – events will be held in schools, synagogues, IDF bases, at Yad Vashem, and many other venues.

The main ceremony at Yad Vashem will take place at 1 PM, while Knesset members will take turns reading out the names of the victims. Youth groups will gather at Yad Vashem for a special ceremony later in the afternoon, and the day will be capped by memorial ceremonies at Yad Mordechai, named for the Warsaw Ghetto hero, and Kibbutz Lochamei Hageta’ot [kibbutz named for Ghetto fighters, ed.],Thursday evening.

In Europe, meanwhile, some 18,000 Jewish youths and adults will participate in the March of the Living, a trek which brings participants from the death camps of Poland and Germany, to Israel, where they will arrive in time for Independence Day next week. Leading the March, among others, are Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi, and Israel Police Commander Yochanan Danino. Among a delegation of police attending the March are a number of officers whose parents are survivors.

Among the student groups attending is one from Turkey. The delegation consists of two members 17 and 18 years old respectively. They asked that their names not be published, given the tense situation in their homeland, but they said that visiting the concentration camps was a very moving experience for them, despite the fact that their families, living in Turkey, did not experience the Holocaust firsthand as did the families of most participants in the March.

Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu & President Shimon Peres invoke Iran threat during Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem



Bibi, Peres invoke Iran threat during Yom Hashoah ceremony

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

Israel’s prime minister and president invoked the Iranian threat during remarks at the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem.

Israel began the observance of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with the national ceremony Wednesday night at the Yad Vashem memorial. Yom Hashoah continues through sundown on Thursday.

“I believe in our ability to defend ourselves,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony. “People who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learned nothing from the Holocaust. To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth – that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people – that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons.”

President Shimon Peres said, “Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late. Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.There is no reason to undermine Israel’s capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden.”

Both leaders also expressed their sorrow at the death of Israeli soldier Hila Bezaleli, who was killed earlier in the day when lighting collapsed on a stage on Mount Herzl during a rehearsal for a Memorial Day ceremony scheduled for next week.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, intoned the Mourner’s Kaddish.

The central theme of the 2012 Yom Hashoah observance is “My Brother’s Keeper: Jewish Solidarity During the Holocaust.”

At the national ceremony Wednesday, which was broadcast on all Israeli television channels, survivors lit six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Another ceremony will be held Thursday morning following the sounding of a siren for two minutes to honor the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

On Yom Hashoah in Israel, places of entertainment are closed and Holocaust themed-movies and documentaries are shown on all television channels. Memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.

Full Text Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: President Shimon Peres’ Speech at Har Herzl on the occasion of Yom Hashoah



Address of President Shimon Peres at Har Herzl on the occasion of Yom Hashoah

Source: Israel Embassy US, 4-18-12

“On my way here, the glowing lights of Jerusalem were suddenly replaced by the sparks of fire which once consumed my people. This is us. This is our people, a people of illumination, an orphan people. This is us. Holocaust survivors, builders of resurgence, my brothers and sisters, tonight our tearing eyes turn to those who are not here with us, and our wide opened eyes gaze upon the yet to come.

During the holidays I travelled all over the country. Blue skies, blooming fields, lovely children, hard-working people. I wondered about the communities they originated from which are no longer. For a moment, I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Bialystok, Dgania, Nahalal, Beer-Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, Odessa.


Not a single Jew remains there.

The furnaces of the Nazi dictator and his emissaries brought calamity to the world and a holocaust onto my people.

Holocaust deniers negate the deeds of their predecessors so as to cover their own crimes.

The falsehood of negation will not extinguish the fire of the inferno.

The piles of tortured bodies, the wounded thrown into the ditches of death, the furnaces burning the living. These are our witnesses for ever.

The last breath of the infants in their mothers’ arms will continue to horrify all human beings, until the end of time.

I was born in Wieszniev. Half of the townspeople came to Israel. The other half perished.

After the war, I learned that on Sunday August 30th, a dark dawn had come upon my hometown. The Nazis who had seized it ordered the Jews to pack their belongings and present themselves at their doorsteps.

The SS officers passed by striking them and told them to proceed towards the synagogue.

One of them cried out “Jews, save yourselves!” The Germans shot down those who tried to escape. The rest reached the synagogue which was made of wood. The doors were locked. All were burned alive.

That was the last day of Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, my grandfather, my mentor. He was consumed by fire with his Tallit on his head.

That was the last Jewish day in Wieszniev.

Not even a single Jew remained alive.

I visited Wieszniev after the war. Not a Jewish mark remains. Not a house, not a synagogue, not a school, not a cemetery, only a heap of stones.

As I stood there, the last Kol Nidrei prayer emitted by my grandfather’s sweet voice rang in my ears.

My lips murmured the Kadish.

Tonight many holocaust survivors are present, along with the children of those villages who built the new Israel.

The Nazis created industries of death, assembly lines of murder, choking gas plants.

No such thing has ever happened in history.

So organized, so systematic, so inhumane.

It happened in Europe, the epitome of enlightenment. It originated in Germany which claimed to be the spearhead in culture. But it was all vain.

The Jews in Germany improved its culture, elevated its scientific level, enriched its economy , like all of Europe’s’ Jewry.

Why did Hitler identify them as his greatest enemy?

The answer is clear- the moral strength of the Jews was more dangerous to him than the military menace of his neighbors.

The Nazis feared that the Jewish conviction that all men are born in the image of God would damage the fascist lie according to which there is a superior race.

They feared the prophetic vision may dent the Nazi sword.

I am proud to be an arch enemy to the Nazi evil.

I am proud of our fathers’ legacy being absolutely opposed to racism.

I am proud of our belief that there is no one Man superior to another Man.

There is no superior race, only deep roots.

I am certain that this is how our children and grandchildren will be brought up; as the Kadish is on their lips, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is in their hearts.

My friends, a million and a half Israeli citizens are not Jewish.

We are obligated to make sure that none of them are ever discriminated because of their nationality or religion. This is the essence of the existence of the State of Israel. Israel is a defense shield, a safe haven and a great spirit. Had the State of Israel existed during those days, I am convinced that things would have been different. We have paid a high price but we have not lost faith.

We have gathered unusual capacities which emerged from the depths of the Holocaust and from the peaks of our legacy. We have a commitment towards the betterment of the world and respect for humanity.

The strengths of our nation is concealed in its history and contained in the souls of its sons. We used to be a question mark, now we are a strong country. Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late.

Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.

There is no reason to undermine Israel’s capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden.

We have engendered a young generation with wide shoulders to carry the load. They are more than capable of leading Israel to its historic destiny following the Ten Commandments, Yavneh and its Sages, and Isaiah’s prophecy.

We will say Kadish in memory of our brothers, sisters, parents and children who were killed in martyrdom. And we will ensure our children remain Jewish, body and soul, as they carry the load of Israel’s security and the peace of the Jewish Nation is on their shoulders.

We came today to say Kadish in memory of our beloved ones who were killed in the Holocaust. We came to say and to swear “Never again”. We came to say that we are a peaceful people who can defend itself.

We can and we will.

We have built and we shall build.

We will always remember our 6 million brothers who perished in the Holocaust.

In one week we will raise the flags of Israel’s Independence which rose for the first time 64 years ago. Today, it is clear that the reality we have built is the vision we once dreamed. We will proudly wave the flags of the future of Israel, as an independent, moral, creative and contributing state. Let us wave the flags of peace, security and brotherhood. “

Jewish News Brief April 18, 2012: US Congres votes unanimously to award Roaoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal



House votes unanimously for Wallenberg medal

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.

The vote Tuesday, two days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, is part of an effort to confer the honor upon Wallenberg in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August.

“By sacrificing his personal safety, and ultimately his life, to protect the lives of a generation of Jews, Raoul Wallenberg exhibited the kind of noble courage that we prize in America,” said William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, which has led lobbying for the act that would confer the honor. “On behalf of the countless Jews saved through his mission, we are grateful for the House’s action today to permanently honor a global hero.”

Wallenberg, a neutral Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents — known as “Wallenberg passports” — to at least 20,000 Jews and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other neutral diplomats collaborated in the effort.

The details of Wallenberg’s fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary toward the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicated that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer….READ MORE

Remembering and Honoring Courage

Source: WH, 4-19-12

In his video message, President Obama speaks for all Americans who remember the courageous and selfless acts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. In 2012, Sweden is celebrating the 100thanniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who chose not to be indifferent and to rise to a higher moral calling. We remember and revere this courageous man whose efforts saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.  Wallenberg paid with his life for his commitment to basic values. And we all have the obligation to ponder the full measure of Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice and tragedy.

Born into wealth, for Wallenberg turning a blind eye to the hardship and suffering of others would have been easy. Instead, as First Secretary at the Swedish Legation in Budapest, Hungary during the darkest days of World War II, Wallenberg demonstrated a sense of self-sacrifice to the greater good of his fellow human beings that is a lesson for all of us.

Other diplomats chose to risk their careers and even their lives, and defied official protocols, rules and immigration “policies” to rescue Jews. Many of these diplomats were censured or punished for their acts of courage.  Some were fired or were stripped of their ranks and pensions. Their rescue efforts took many forms. Among other selfless acts, they issued visas, citizenship papers and other forms of documentation that allowed Jews to escape the Nazis.

Today at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, you will find not only Raoul Wallenberg’s tree planted along the Avenue of the Righteous, but also 2,000 other trees and 18,000 other names engraved in the walls of The Garden of the Righteous in remembrance of those who risked their lives to save European Jews from the Holocaust.

Why did they do it?  Because they all believed that: “One man can make a difference.” That is the sentence written over the front door of the Raoul Wallenberg School in Brooklyn, New York, one of many American institutions honoring Wallenberg. In 1981, the U.S. Congress made Wallenberg an honorary U.S. citizen, at that time just the second in our history.

“The importance of not being indifferent” is a timely and relevant operating principle in our relationship with the world today. Advancing human dignity and protecting universal rights is at the core of American values, and it is relevant to the challenges of our time.

As we consider Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice, we must remember Wallenberg’s tragic end: many historians believe he languished in lonely incarceration for months or even years before being murdered. Wallenberg epitomizes what self-sacrifice for the sake of others is all about.

Mark F. Brzezinski is the United States Ambassador to Sweden

Israel Political Brief April 18, 2012: Gilad Shalit released from the military



Gilad Shalit released from the military

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released from the Israel Defense Forces.

Shalit was officially released, at the rank of sergeant-major, on Wednesday, six months after he was freed from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

He signed his release forms at his northern Israel home in Mitzpe Hila in lieu of going to an IDF induction center as part of an expedited administrative procedure, according to reports….READ MORE

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