Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, Picture via Wikimedia Commons
TEL AVIV — On April 28. at 10AM, a two-minute air raid siren marked the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. An entire nation came to a halt as millions of Israelis paused in silence. People stopped their cars on highways and pedestrians stood in the streets in solemn reflection on the horrors of the Holocaust. The national holiday began on the night of April 27, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, with businesses and transportation shutting down.
Shortly after the sirens, a number of ceremonies and memorials commenced. The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, held its 25th annual “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony
, a name-reading of those who perished in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem
, the world center for Holocaust research and education, began its remembrance events on the night of April 27 with a state ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Memorials continued on Monday with a wreath-laying ceremony. Day-long broadcasts on television and radio, photo exhibits and documentaries dedicated to Holocaust remembrance ran throughout the day.
According to Israeli student Ben Kazael, the day serves the important purpose of remembering.
“A whole day dedicated only for the purpose of remembering … helps a lot in understanding what actually happened there and how it affects you as an Israeli nowadays,” said Kazael.
The topics of Holocaust memorialization and education have been debated about since Israel’s founding. On April 24, the Education Ministry and Yad Vashem presented the new Holocaust studies curriculum, a mandatory program for Holocaust education beginning in kindergarten. According to Haaretz, the aim of the program is to tailor Holocaust studies for each age group
at a time when the last generation of Holocaust survivors is dying out.
Although most Israelis are introduced informally to the Holocaust early on at home, some find troubling the early formal education that perpetuates a trauma and instills the Holocaust as a foundational element of Israeli identity.
NYU Tel Aviv students were given the chance to learn about and discuss some of the contemporary issues related to the Holocaust in Israeli society this past week. At an event hosted by NYU Tel Aviv, psychologist Sam Juni
gave a lecture titled "Psychological, Emotional and Moral Challenges of 2nd Generation Holocaust Survivors and Their Families." He discussed the responsibilities of “carrying the torch” and how child development is affected by growing up in a family of Holocaust survivors.
The events of the day resonated with Isabel Baker, a NYU New York junior studying abroad at the Tel Aviv campus.
"It is totally different experiencing Holocaust Memorial day in America, because it is usually just an hour long ceremony — nothing shuts down, life goes on. Here, traffic stops, and affects the entire day. It is much more a day of reflection and memorial," she said.