Jerusalem Streets are not Straight

Oh, what a week it was.

The Jerusalem streets are always bumpy with highs and lows, nothing seems to be straight or planned with logic. Maps and photos can not capture the topography of Jerusalem.

When the week and day start with the heaviest dust storm you have experienced, how nice it was to wander on the Jerusalem streets, just as the sun is beginning to set. The dust cloud lifting was a perfect opportunity to take a photo of the sun in the sky from a newly developed area in the Baka neighborhood.

I was on my way to a post-Passover Mimouna celebration (delayed for one night) with a gorgeous table laid out for the invited guests.

Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahoum was a marvelous hostess! Her boundless energy greeted each person who arrived over several hours as if they were as important as the Mayor of Jerusalem who arrived late.

Flyover rehearsal for Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day was another favorite high of the week. New stunts are planned for this year!

The first time back to Har Herzl, after two long years for an event, I walked past the military cemetery on my way to Yad Vashem.

The official Israel State Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day took place on Wednesday, at 8:00 pm, in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, Israel. 

The testimony videos are readily available on the Yad Vashem website and are highly recommended, with subtitles in Hebrew and English.

I decided to share with you behind-the-live camera scenes.

Leaders of the several international interfaith groups in attendance found

the atmosphere is different from watching on a screen alone from home.

It seemed to me that more international media was on site this year, after corona severely limited attendance to the ceremony for the past two years.

The faces of the torch lighters standing proud, each with a horrific story of their survival but beaming with the hope of future generations, are inspiring and uplifting, as seen here – Zvi Gill

The numbers of survivors decrease but young leaders and IDF groups are seated in the back each year. It is not common to see children attending, but David brought his young son to Yad Vashem for the powerful event.

In the large crowd, it was not possible to find them afterward for a comment or to find long-time friends from overseas in attendance.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s son and family seated in the center of the second row were a focus of the media.

Former President Reuven Rivlin met with and posed with some of the GPO photographers he spent time with over the years.

Former Prime Minister and now Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu made a much less dramatic and quieter entrance than in the past.

The IDF Honor Guard was back on stage standing at attention as usual.

The new Prime Minister and President of Israel made their entrance along with their wives and a few other Israeli officials with multiple cameras aimed close to their faces.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau lit the flame as he has done in the past.

The crowd watched the TV live stream broadcast projected on a screen.

I was able to get close to Naftali Bennett speaking for the first time as Prime Minister at the Yad Vashem ceremony.

How sad that Shmuel Blumenfeld z”l passed away after doing his video, two weeks before the ceremony, but his son Aryeh was present and lit the torch in his honor and memory.

Each year the survivors are assisted by a close relative, often a grandchild serving in the Israel Defense Force. Their faces show expressions of defiance and survival against incredible odds to move forward and rebuild their lives.

Before leaving the plaza, President Isaac and Michal Herzog went to speak with the honor guard after the ceremony ended.

Benjamin Netanyahu did also before making a quiet exit from the plaza.

Ayelet Shaked stopped for a photo with an admirer on her way out.

And Walter Bingham, 98 years young, standing straight and strong, a survivor originally from Germany, still working as a professional journalist, was honored with a special seat.

From the Yad Vashem entrance lit at night,

I walked down Har Herzl past the military cemetery entrance again, where Israeli flags had been lowered to half-mast for Yom HaShoah.

Further, on the way home, I passed the blue and white lights and flags that were ready for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut to follow this week.

The crowd always stands at the end of the official opening Yom HaShoah commemoration in Jerusalem, Israel to sing HaTikvah – The Hope.

The Jerusalem streets are not straight, but there is always hope.

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780

From Jerusalem, Israel, on Monday,  April 20, 2020, at 8:00 pm (Israel time), the official Opening Ceremony for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 5780 will be broadcast from Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance, on Yad Vashem’s website and Facebook page.

Following the advice of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, in his autobiography “Man’s Search for Meaning” – “What matters is to make the best of any given situation.”

This year the ceremony was pre-recorded without an audience due to restrictions of the pandemic coronavirus COVID19.

Stage at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah with memorial flame lit

The ceremony will comprise traditional elements, including prerecorded video remarks by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Naomi Cassuto will speak on behalf of the survivors. 

Yad Vashem Council Chairman and Holocaust survivor Rabbi Israel Meir Lau will kindle the Memorial Torch as he has done many times in the past.

Rabbi Y M Lau pointing to himself as a child in large photo in Yad Vashem

 In this photo, the Rabbi is pointing to himself as a child soon after liberation, sitting with a group of US army soldiers and other Jewish survivors. 

Survivors and young relative lighting flame at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah

During the ceremony, six traditional memorial torches will be lit.

The stories of six Holocaust survivors featured this year are the following: the first torch– Zohar Arnon– second– Aviva Blum-Wachs; third–Haim Arbiv; fourth- Leah Reuveni; fifth–Avraham Carmi; and sixth– Yehuda Beilis

Lighting memorial flame at Yad Vashem on Yom HaShoah

In the past, a child or grandchild assisted each torch lighter,

Light a torch at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah

often wearing an IDF uniform. Frankl’s words: ‘to turn from tragedy and suffering to human achievement and accomplishment’ are exemplified in the faces of those lighting the memorial torches.

Israeli singers Shiri Maimon and Shai Tzabari will participate in the ceremony, which will also include narrative pieces written by Holocaust survivor Jack Weber, and recited by Israeli actor Zohar Straus. The MC for the ceremony will be Danny Cushmaro. 

The ceremony will feature the traditional memorial service, including the recitation of a chapter from Psalms by Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau. The Rishon LeZion, Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef will recite the mourner’s Kaddish, and Cantor Daniel Dahan will recite El Maleh Rahamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs.

To mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, when public gatherings have been banned in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak worldwide, Yad Vashem has asked the public to participate in an international campaign to record themselves reciting the names of Holocaust victims, and share the video on social media using the hashtags #RememberingFromHome #ShoahNames.

Yom Hashoa victims photos at Yad Vashem

“Join us and mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year from your homes,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “Help us to restore the memory of those murdered during the Holocaust, as you do each and every year. Although the circumstances this year are unique, the message is still the same: We will never forget their names.”

Photographs are from RJS previous visits to Yad Vashem.

For the ceremony when Shimon Peres was President click here.

Background noise interfered with our recording in the private room where the torch lighters and their invited family members gathered before the ceremony. It was a very different feeling than the ominous silence during the short videos presented during the ceremony relating each of the survivor stories. In this room, this gathering felt more like a party. A celebration. A triumph of good over evil. We survived. Proudly, see what we have accomplished.

Behind the scenes with RJS in 2016 click here.

To conclude, HaTikvah from last year

The Hope for better times ahead for all.

Never Again.

#RememberingFromHome #ShoahNames.

 

 

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembered in Jerusalem

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembered in Jerusalem

They tried to kill us. We are here.

The official Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day took place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Warsaw Ghetto Square of Yad Vashem, on Mount of Remembrance, near Har Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel. 

Holocaust Memorial IDF honor guard

The IDF honor guard posed for photographers before the ceremony.

Two women greeting at ceremony for Yom Hahsoah

For the invited guests it is a time to see and greet long time friends.

Group of German journalists for Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem Israel

This year a group of German journalists attended.

Holocaust memorial Israeli President Rivlin first speaker

After dark, the Israeli flag was lowered to half mast, and a ceremonial flame was lit.

Israeli President Rivlin at yad Vashem

President Reuven Rivlin was the first speaker.

Israeli Prime Minister at Yom Hashoan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke next.

There were musical interludes, and dramatic readings.

Six torches lit by survivors at Yad Vashem for Yom Hashoah

Before each one of the six survivors lit their torch, a short video about their lives was screened.

Each flame represents one million lost souls, murdered in Holocaust.

Honor guard at Holocaust Remembrance Day opening ceremony at Yad Vashem

Meanwhile, the honor guard stood at attention the entire time.

Netanyahu greeting honor guard

As last year, the Prime Minister went to shake hands with the soldiers in the honor guard.

Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem head of IDF speaking with Sara Netanyahu

As last year, while the event was being televised, movement was restricted. (Ok, I thought it was much better this year, maybe because there were fewer foreign photographers?) But as soon as the official program was over, I was able to go up front and take this photo. The honor guard was still at attention, but the rest of us were talking and heading home.

At Yad Vashem, the crowd stood still for HaTikvah.

HaTikvah, The Hope, takes on greater meaning when remembering the past.

The Jerusalem Municipality also marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a ceremony held in Kikar Safra, Safra Square, the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, city council members, survivors, attended the event, which was open to the public. This year the ceremonies were under the theme “War Within a War – the struggle for survival of Jews in the Holocaust.”

Zichron B’Salon, Memories in Living Room, hosted dozens of smaller, parlor meetings in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In private homes throughout the city of Jerusalem survivors retold their stories in these more intimate groups and settings. President Reuven Rivlin hosted a group in Beit Hanasi on Sunday morning as he has done for the past several years.

Restaurants and entertainment venues were closed at night.

The next morning on May 2, a memorial siren sounded at 10:00 am.

A wreath laying ceremony was held at Yad Vashem.

Organizations, communities, schools, and businesses held programs, with survivors speaking.

The Knesset had a special recitation of names of Nazi victims.

Israel memorial day flame on Jerusalem synagogue

Flags on public buildings flew at half-mast and memorial flames were displayed.

Child survivors are aging.  We cannot change the past. Now that they have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they are celebrating.  The grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the future.  “This is our revenge,” I have heard over and over. They are celebrating life. We are here.

Light a torch at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah

So many stories. So many memories of tragedies and miracles.

Six million murdered by Nazis is too hard to comprehend.

Where were the civilized countries? Canada. British in Palestine. The United States.

All turned their backs.

To conclude, one memory, from one friend from Kristalnacht, the night the world turned dark.