Monday, May 05, 2008

noises in the night

Two days ago I woke to the sound of a wailing siren. It went for two minutes. These two minutes are part of Holocaust Remembrance Day. People all over the country stop what they are doing and observe these two minutes in silence. Cars on the highway stop and people get out and stand to attention. The world stops for two minutes and remembers.

Later that day I decided to read about the Holocaust on Wikipedia. Of course I had read/heard some statistics about the Holocaust before, and I have visited 'Yad Va Shem' ( the Holocaust Memorial museum in Israel). But I was a bit traumatized when I read the entry in Wikipedia. The entire catastrophe was based on the psychotic dogmatism of Hitler- he wasn't waging war over land or resources. The most heinous part is the description of the treatment of people in the concentration camps. The humiliating and disgusting ways in which men and women and even worse, children, were used for bizarre 'medical testing', worked to death and killed with cruelty and hate. So bizarre were these things that no-one believed the few escapes from concentration camps until 1944 when someone with a photographic memory gave such precise and consistent details the Allies could believe it.

As the sun was setting we visited a cemetery where Eyal's grandmother is buried. She died two years ago on Holocaust Memorial day. Much like Anne Frank, she lived three years in a an attic in the Netherlands. From when she was 15 to 18 years old. Unlike Anne Frank, who died in a concentration camp, Hanna escaped and made her way to Israel.

Her diary from those three years have been published into a book ( in Dutch and Hebrew). Eyal's father read part of it and said a short prayer. Eyal's grandmothers brother was there. He said he remembers the day his father and older sister went to the 'work house'. He said he told them not to go, pleaded with them not to go. But they went (to the concentration camp), and were never seen again.

Later I admitted that I had been scared when I heard the siren, I thought it might be an air raid siren. The pantry to the house is a bomb shelter, big enough to fit us all in, the shelves lined with food and water, gas masks, a radio and a little map on the wall. Every house, apartment and building I have been to in Israel has a bomb shelter. Eyal told me not to feel silly, everytime he hears a motorcycle start he thinks it could be an air raid siren. In the 1990's the entire family spent a bit of time there, gas masks on- waiting for the radio to announce that it was safe in their (colour-coded) part of the map, to resume normal life.

The rockets falling about 80kms south of here daily are a constant reminder not to make light of these worries.

Later the next night we both woke to a loud banging sound and yelling, I turned to Eyal and he smiled and said- "relax it's just fireworks".


Blogger Catalin said...

You provide a really interesting perspective as a newcomer who has come to Israel not for political or ideological reasons but due to the simple and powerful pull of personal love. Thank you.

I did a research project on the Holocaust in ninth grade which made quite an impression on me. This was way before the internet, so I had to go to the library and get microfiche or something and look at pictures through a machine. The photographs of heaps (literally piles) of bodies really shocked me. I was a kid who hadn't even seen many movies, so photographic images perhaps had a particular impact on me, but those images would move anyone. The other thing that really stuck with me were two numbers: 12 million killed, 6 million Jews. I'm not a person who easily remembers my own phone number, so it is a little surprising whenever I remember numbers without trying. I was struck by those numbers because I had only learned before that about the Jews who were killed, not about the other groups and individuals who were also rounded up, experimented on or simply exterminated. I don't now know if those numbers are accurate (I don't know what my sources were), but they have been stuck in my mind since I was fourteen.

I like the idea of the two-minute stoppage of everything. In general, we in industrialized nations, at least, could use more stop-and-contemplate time, I think.

5:00 am  

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