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

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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

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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

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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

Jewish News Brief April 16, 2012: Marking 25 years, March of the Living uniting survivors with liberators in Poland

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Marking 25 years, March of the Living uniting survivors with liberators in Poland

Source: JTA, 4-16-12

Young Jews entering the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland during the 2010 March of Living. (March of the Living)
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Young Jews entering the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland during the 2010 March of Living. (March of the Living)

YOM HASHOAH

Holocaust survivors have been an integral part of the trip’s program from its inception, but this is the first year that liberators are taking center stage. A ceremony on Wednesday will honor the soldiers, and they will speak to smaller groups of students during the week in Poland.

“The liberators are great people to testify to the world as to what happened,” David Machlis, vice chairman of the march, told JTA. “They provide an incontrovertible and lasting testament to the truth.”

In all, some 10,000 participants from 35 countries, more than 100 Holocaust survivors and the liberators will take part in the march this year. In its 25th year, the March of the Living began as a way to expose young people to the story of the Holocaust as a way to counter Holocaust deniers, according to Machlis.

Participants, mostly high-school students, march from the Auschwitz concentration camp to the Birkenau camp on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on April 18. After a few more days visiting concentration camps and memorial sites, the trip moves to Israel, where participants celebrate Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day, this year on April 25 and 26….READ MORE

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