Today is Yom HaShoah...Holocaust Remembrance Day...around the world. Unlike any other community in the world (to the best of my knowledge), only in Israel is a siren blown for two minutes during which time the entire country comes to a standstill.
I had never been here for this siren and I wanted to be fully aware BEFORE it began in order to "prepare" myself. At first, I thought I would go to the local mall and observe as a large crowd of people came to a standstill. As I thought about it more, I felt that solitude would be a better approach but not solitude without some meaning. I left my house 10 minutes before the siren and went around to the other side of the mountain...the side that faces Yerushalayim. I felt it would be symbolic to stand and look at the mountains of the holy Yerushalayim during this moment. I would stand there thinking about those murdered during the Holocaust while looking at a vista that millions could only have dreamed of. What would have been, had there indeed BEEN a State of Israel at that time of history...that is a question left to be pondered as the siren was about to begin.
At exactly 10am, the siren began and I was completely caught off guard for what happened to me emotionally. Tears began to flow almost the second I heard the beginning of the sound. I thought about those who lined up to go to their deaths thinking that they were going to a shower; of those who hid in the forests to save their lives and of those who put up a battle in the Warsaw ghetto.
As I looked at Yerushalayim and thought of these people, I also began to think of how far we have come in such a short time!
Instead of speaking of Six Million in terms of how many were murdered , we can also speak about the six million plus (kein yirboo!) of the Jews now living in Israel. Instead of underground fighters or partisans in a forest, we have the IDF, a military might the envy of all modern nations. We have a country in which we are free to openly be Jewish and express that Jewishness any way we feel appropriate. We have control (to a degree) of Har HaBayit and ALL of Jerusalem. Since 1948, Israel is ruled for the first time in almost 200o years BY JEWS. Yes, there is always a haven for Jews here in Israel.
And yet...we have so far to go! Open today's newspapers and see that Anti-Semitic acts in 2009 DOUBLED world-wide; we have a monster in Iran who publicly declares death to Israel with most of the world not caring; we have country after country calling for divestment, uprising, destruction, etc etc of this beloved country of our's.
Yes, we HAVE come very far in 62 years...but we still have so far to go...