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Sunday, April 7, 2013

YOM HASHOAH, A DAY TO REMEMBER

 
At sundown today “Holocaust Remembrance Day” begins. While there are many “Remembrance Days” kept in memorial of the Holocaust, none is as poignant as “Yom HaShoah,” the official day of observance in Israel. Flags fly at half-mast, prayers are offered, candles burn, sirens sound across Zion for two minutes, people stand at attention, cars stop where they are; silent tribute to the dead is offered. Throughout the day speeches from the dwindling survivors recall the pain, the pride and the motivation for a motto that leaves no doubt for the future of a nation promised by God Himself: “NEVER AGAIN.”

Israel is seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so Israelis already have begun marking the start of 24 hours during which schools, government offices, the Israeli Defense Force and local municipalities across the nation will hold ceremonies to honor those murdered by the Nazis and their partners. The national flag was lowered to half-mast at 8 p.m. at the beginning of the main ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke and Six Holocaust survivors lit memorial torches in memory of the 6 million Jews who were murdered.

A few years ago as Sharon and I exited from a private meeting at the Knesset, the large hall at the entrance of Israel’s parliamentary building was filled with Holocaust survivors. It was Yom HaShoah. I have no words to describe the feelings I experienced as we quietly slipped through the crowded room. As I returned to my hotel I could not get their faces out of my mind. They are now in their 70’s and 80’s; in a few short years they will all be gone. No one will be left who heard the cries. The Holocaust deniers will be emboldened as these living memorials slip away. A void will be left on this planet that never could nor ever should be again filled.

As a gentile and especially as a Christian, I am very reticent to even bring up the subject. My own thoughts and feelings are far too shallow and devoid of the deep pain carried in the hearts of the Jewish people. Not only those hallowed survivors carry the pain, but every Jew. They also carry within them a pride and joy of survival and success that I can only behold and consider. So I must repeatedly walk the hallowed grounds of Yad Vashem. I must soak in the noble presence and quiet pain of those survivors still among us. I must contemplate the connections between the Christian faith I hold so dear to the tragedies before, during and after the dark days of the Nazi regime. I must listen to the lessons of Jewish and Christian history and work for understanding between Christians and Jews today. I must stand with the Jewish people and take as my own the commitment to “NEVER AGAIN”.

In Exodus 3:7 we read: ” The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” God does not ignore nor forget the cries. He will also enlighten those with a listening ear.

So I will remember…and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.