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Yom HaShoah



Yom HaShoah Observances

in Israel


HaShoah means “The Catastrophe” and is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. This year Yom HaShoah commences at sundown on April 15th. It is a national day of mourning in Israel.


The country begins to prepare itself for this period of mourning before sunset. Television and radio stations halt their broadcasts or change their programming to Holocaust documentaries.  Places of entertainment and commerce are closed by law before sunset so employees can be home with their families.


Memorial services begin  with a state ceremony at Yad VaShem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. During this ceremony all national flags are lowered to half-mast as the national day of mourning begins.


Communities throughout Israel hold their own memorials for victims of the Holocaust. Smaller communities often recognize survivors and publically light candles for family members lost to the Holocaust.


The next day schools, military bases and places of work hold ceremonies to remember the Holocaust. At 10:00 in the morning air raid sirens sound in every community. For two minutes the State of Israel becomes still – work ceases and cars stop as we stand in silent reverence to the victims of the Holocaust.


We remember and say a silent prayer for the victims and for guidance from God on how to continue to cope with the tragedy and how to ensure it never happens again. 


Click here for video of Yom HaShoah siren on a Tel Aviv highway


At one point everything is so still it seems as if the video has stalled, however you can see the lights on the cars flashing.


Yom HaShoah

The cataclysmic event of the Holocaust is seminal in modern history. April 28th, Nisan 27, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day the State of Israel honors the victims and heroes of the Holocaust. It is a difficult day in Israel and one in which every Jewish citizen feels the weight of 6 million souls.


From the years 1933-1945 6 million Jews were purposely and systematically murdered at the hands of the Nazis. It was not by happenstance of war did their deaths occur. The Nazis assumed they had the right to decide who had permission to live, and who did not. It was their intention to exterminate the entire Jewish population; this unfathomable fact cannot be mistaken.


Before the Holocaust European Jewry numbered about 9 million, the Holocaust reduced the number by 2/3. It is a figure that is difficult to comprehend. It seems so improbable, yet it is the reality. However, because the facts and figures are extraordinary, in remembering the Holocaust we need to go beyond this. We need to go deeper in our understanding.


For decades Holocaust educators have been grappling with how to teach about the Holocaust. They are trying to find a way to connect today's youth to a world that was eradicated, a concept utterly alien to young people now. It is a challenge that institutions such as Yad VaShem in Jerusalem and the US Holocaust Museum Memorial in Washington, DC take very seriously.


Remembering the Holocaust should not just be about a moment of silence once a year on a date the world cannot agree upon. While these days of remembrance are vitally important to Holocaust education and the fundamental notion to "never forget", they should not occur in isolation.


The Holocaust needs to be grasped through individual memories and accounts. We need to learn about those who chose to fight, those who suffered in silence and those who faced impossible choices. We need to approach these stories with an open heart as we can never truly understand the circumstances individuals, families and communities faced.  Our minds and our souls should grapple with these dilemmas and consequent actions, approaching them with thoughtfulness and empathy.


For the Jewish nation the Holocaust is a wound that is still raw and which may never heal. As a nation and as individuals we all lost a part of ourselves. Remembering the Holocaust is the world's responsibility, not just a Jewish one. It is up to each one of us to commit to furthering the memory of those who died and to revering the legacy of the survivors.


We encourage you to read and watch videos of survivors' testimonies, learn about the political and social circumstances that enabled the Holocaust to happen, visit Holocaust memorials and post on social media and your blogs about importance to never forget.


Each of us will be affected and touched by the Holocaust in a different way. We hope the cumulative crucial result is that this tragedy will never be allowed to happen again – with the Jewish people or any others. The only way to guarantee this is to learn, educate, keep the memories alive and never forget.   



Holocaust Education in Israel

Even though it is not discussed daily, the Holocaust something that pervades life in Israel. For this reason, the Ministry of Education has sought to advance Holocaust education. Recently, the Holocaust has been made part of the national curriculum from kindergarten through high school.


There has been some controversy including children as young as 3 and 4 in Holocaust instruction, however, the curriculum is age appropriate, thoughtful and only discussed on Yom HaShoah. As children progress through the grades the Holocaust is discussed in more detail and with deeper analysis. The studies culminate for many students in a heritage trip to Poland to visit Auschwitz. Israel sends about 25,000 students each year for this meaningful experience.



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