This has been one of the hardest times I have experienced since I moved to Israel almost 4 years ago. Managing, despite a horrific diet of primarily sushi and mayonnaise, to remain healthy, all of the possible illness a healthy person usually suffers from came crashing down on me at once, and for the better part of three weeks I have been confined to bed with strict instructions from doctors to stay off my feet. From a food borne virus that had me in the hospital with an IV in my arm due to severe dehydration, to a flu and cold that has knocked me off my butt, to a handful of 102-103 degree fevers (and I can count on 1 hand how many times I’ve had a fever in my life), this has not been the easiest time to be away from immediate family. Luckily I have a saint of a boyfriend and his wonderful parents who have done their best to take care of me and make me comfortable. And, of course, despite all of the sicknesses, I still can’t get over how strong my craving for sushi is, and I hope to get back to my normal diet very soon!
Yesterday was a very special day in Israel, and this is the 4th time I’m lucky enough to write about experiencing Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha’Shoah) from within the Jewish state. Every year on this day, beginning at sundown, restaurants close, places of fun and entertainment cease to operate, and the country goes into a somber quiet. TV shows are cancelled outside of Holocaust films and documentaries, and it is a time for the people of Israel to reflect on an event that claimed millions of our people’s lives, our grandparent’s and great grandparent’s lives, and ultimately led to the return of the Jews to our ancestral homeland. It is a very powerful to experience this feeling.
The Wail of a Siren
When you live in Israel you are no stranger to the shrieks of sirens. I have been here now through two wars with Gaza, and no sound can compare to the wail that sends you racing to a bunker or shelter because a rocket from Hamas or a bomb planted by a terrorist is threatening your safety. On Yom Ha’Shoah, however, the two minute siren that opens the day is a much different sound that evokes a much different feeling. Plagued by my second virus of the season, I wasn’t at work on the morning the siren would sound, and, not wanting to miss paying my respects to the many who perished, and the few who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, I made sure to set my alarm to wake me up a few minutes before 10am when a Holocaust survivor would sound the alarm throughout all of Israel.
One of the benefits of living on the 14th floor of a building that overlooks one of the busiest areas in Tel Aviv, including overlooking two freeways, a train station, and one of the business shopping centers in Israel, is that you can see how the whole city reacts during a stand still, so two minutes before 10 Stephane and I made our way to our balcony, positioned ourselves to look over all of Tel Aviv, took a quick video shown below, and then…the whole country cried.
Or at least that is how it sounded when the siren pierced an entire country. Everything stopped. Trains aborted their activity in the middle of the tracks, cars stopped in the middle of the freeways, people came out of their places of work to stand on the streets with their fellow countrymen, and even the Arab construction workers, who build night and day near our house, stopped their work to stand with all of us us in remembering the 11 million people who perished 70 years ago at the hands of the cruelest evil imaginable. It was like I was staring at a static painting of the city. Everything was so still… The people looked like statues, the cars looked like forgotten toys. And all around you was a wail that froze the country.
It is hard to not feel overwhelmed with emotion when those sirens sound, especially now, when the existence of the Jewish people is, yet again, threatened by a tyrannical Iran, fanatic Muslim neighbors, and a leader of America who is working to give our enemies the weapons they need to start a war, and who would rather meet with suppressing dictators like Fidel Castro over his allies in the Middle East. This siren cried with the power of 6 million of our people who were slaughtered like animals, and with the 7 million people currently living in Israel who everyday live knowing that so many powers in this world are trying to destroy this magical haven for a persecuted people who, to this day, are still hated by so many.
It is a scary world we live in, and as a Jew, Israeli, and a woman, there aren’t many places outside of Israel that are safe for me anymore. I was forbidden to wear my Jewish star in Paris, I can’t travel freely to many of the Middle Eastern countries I yearn to see, I can’t fly certain airlines because of both my religion and countries of citizenship, and even major synagogues in America, the land of the free, are guarded by armed men and women standing to prevent attacks against our people. But here, in this tiny little country that garners so much attention, I can shout from the rooftops that I’m a Jew, and I have 6 million decedents of those who Hitler tried to wipe out, standing behind me, welcoming me, telling me that I’m home and I’m safe, and that is true freedom. That is what the siren signifies… The cries of those who were lost, thanking God that their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are finally safe, and as long as Israel endures, they will always have a home and a people to protect them.
I thank God everyday for my home in Israel, and I thank him everyday for giving me the strength and volition to fight for her wherever and whenever I can. He made me a Strong, Jewish Woman and for that I am forever grateful.
We will never forget… We will never let history repeat itself… And we will always SURVIVE!
Am Yisrael Chai ❤
I love you forever and always friend. Until we meet again,