Israel remembers Nazi Holocaust victims (and survivors)

Sirens bring Israel to a halt to mark Yom Ha-Shoah. At Yad Vashem, Prime Minister Bennett does not mention Iran, but speaks about divisions among Jews, noting that today's conflicts cannot be equated to the “unprecedented” tragedy that took place during the Second World War. Meanwhile, a study by Tel Aviv University shows “significant rise” of anti-Semitism in 2021 in the world.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Today at 10 am, Israel came to a stop for two minutes, as sirens sounded across the country, to remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Traditionally, during Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Israelis honour the dead and survivors, whose tragic stories and testimonies of one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century, have been handed down and kept alive.

This day, the most solemn in the country’s calendar, began as usual, with the wailing sound of sirens bringing buses, cars, and pedestrians to a sudden stop; motionless, people stood to attention, each remembering the past with its load of deaths and mourning.

Israel mourns those who vanished during the Shoah, their names mentioned by the descendants of survivors, in schools, museums, public buildings, that such a tragedy may never happen again.

Bars and restaurants closed early yesterday afternoon while TV and radio scheduled programmes – documentaries, interviews and somber music – dedicated almost exclusively to the Holocaust.

As per tradition, the Yad Vashem memorial was the main venue for official remembrance ceremonies. From here, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the nation.

His message was different from that of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who for a decade used every occasion to speak about Iran’s nuclear threat.

This time, Bennett did not mention Israel’s avowed foe, but focused instead on the Holocaust as a unique and “unprecedented” event in human history.

In an indirect attack against those who misuse the term today, Bennet said that “Even the most difficult wars today are not the Holocaust and are not comparable to the Holocaust.”

The President of Israel Isaac Herzog was also present at the ceremony, as was Bundestag President Barbel Bas, the first senior German official to take part in the commemoration in Israel.

The anniversary incidentally overlapped with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which saw the last Jewish residents of the city rise up in April-May 1943 against the Nazis. Some 13,000 died during the battle that ensued.

Prime Minister Bennett used the event to bemoan divisions within the Jewish resistance, between left and right, which did not work together making it easier for the Nazis to liquidate the ghetto.

“Even during the darkest chapter of Jewish history, during our people's inferno of extermination, the left and the right did not find a way to work together," Bennett lamented.

Meanwhile, the BBC published the results of a study conducted by Tel Aviv University that indicates a sharp rise in anti-Semitism around the world last year, most notably in countries like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany. and Australia.

The research suggests that trend is being fuelled as much by far-right movements as the radical left, both of which are linked by common hatred of Jews fed and magnified by the Internet and social media.

Titled Anti-Semitism Worldwide Report 2021, the study found a “significant increase in various types of anti-Semitic incidents in most countries with large Jewish populations”.

Case in point: Anti-Jewish hate crimes recorded in both New York and Los Angeles (United States) were almost twice that of 2020, mostly online because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Likewise, in France, attacks against Jews increased by 75 per cent, while Canada recorded a 40-year record in August 2021.

In many places, the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip fuelled the violence.