Holocaust survivors decry indifference to Syrian war
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Holocaust survivors decry indifference to Syrian war

Young Israelis partner with Nazi victims to send Holocaust Remembrance Day message to world leaders

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Zimmerman expresses her anguish over the gassing of Syrian children. (Facebook video)
Holocaust survivor Ruth Zimmerman expresses her anguish over the gassing of Syrian children. (Facebook video)

The video begins like many others created for Holocaust Remembrance Day, with survivors each introducing themselves and saying when and where they were born.

Yitzhak Yaakov Levin displays a photograph of children, saying that out that of the large group, only he and his sister survived. Eva Ben-Tal recounts how she entered Auschwitz with her grandmother, but was liberated from the death camp alone.

“We went through tremendous suffering, hunger, pain and illnesses,” remarks Adi Lerner before immediately going on to say, “That’s why it is hard for me to understand the response to the war in Syria.”

An angry Ruth Zimmerman mimics the sound of a gassed child gasping for breath and asks, “What did they do to deserve it?!”

“Children must not suffer because they are children and they have not done anything bad, and they are pure and innocent,” says an emotional Lerner.

לפני 70 שנה העולם לא עשה מספיק כדי לעצור את הזוועות שהם עברו. עכשיו יש להם משהו מאוד חשוב להגיד לעולם.70 years ago the world didn't do enough to stop the atrocities that they suffered.Now they have something important to say to the world.

Posted by ‎הצינור‎ on Sunday, 23 April 2017

The clip, viewed over 150,000 times in its first 23 hours on Facebook, was produced by a group of young Israeli adults after reports that the April 4 gas attack on Idlib killed dozens and injured hundreds, including many children.

“At first we were a small group of about six friends who came together, but then we got interest from about 100 people when we created a Facebook group,” said Alex Rif, a Tel Aviv poet, singer and activist who instigated the video project.

Alex Rif (Courtesy)
Alex Rif (Courtesy)

According to Rif, people from all backgrounds showed support for a Yom Hashoah project related to the Syrian crisis.

“The group was really diverse. We had everyone, including Haredim and Arabs,” said Rif, who is active with the Culture Brigade, a subgroup of the Generation 1.5 organization of Russian-speaking Israelis, working to make the Russian-Israeli culture and experience more of part of the general Hebrew-speaking Israeli society.

The decision was made to create the video, and a team of volunteers, including Noa Maiman, Amit Wolecki, Liron Atia, Aviv Zidkiya, Adam Frimer and others, put it together in two weeks.

They used personal connections to identify Holocaust survivors, asking them to talk about what is happening in Syria from the perspective of someone who lived through the Holocaust. Most of the survivors they approached were willing to speak on camera.

After the group heard former chief rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau, a child survivor himself, quoted in the news calling what is happening in Syria “a holocaust,” they tried to get him to participate in the project.

“Unfortunately he was out of the country during the weeks we were filming,” Rif said.

According to Rif, the survivors all acknowledged the assistance Israel is providing the Syrians. They were not critical of their own country’s response, but rather of that of the international community.

Rif said her group has not yet given itself a name and is not sure at this point if it will continue to act on its own, or whether it will instead partner with other organizations like Syrian Embassy Jerusalem to put further pressure on national and international leadership to end the war and suffering.

“We’re doing what we can in the meantime. We know this video won’t make a huge impact or end the war, but the situation is so horrifying that it must continue to be discussed. We hope this video can be one more thing to try to bring pressure on governments to take action,” Rif said.

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