Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed via videolink the 11,000 participants of the 25th annual March of the Living on Thursday and offered a heartfelt message. Marchers this year reportedly hailed from 50 countries.
Netanyahu told the crowd, who had just finished marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau, that the establishment of the State of Israel did not eradicate anti-Semitism. Rather, “the flames of hatred towards the Jewish people still rage,” as the “wanton murder of schoolchildren in France” testifies.
Netanyahu decried the “systematic and unremitting assault on the one and only Jewish state” and attempts to “morally equate Israel… with the terrorists themselves.”
In contrast to his largely cautionary speech Wednesday night at Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, Netanyahu offered the march participants hope. Now, as opposed to two and three generations ago, “the Jewish people have the power to defend themselves against anti-Semitic hatred,” but Israel’s power depends on a strong army, a strong economy, and Jewish and non-Jewish support from abroad.
In concluding his remarks, he urged the assembled thousands to “march with your head held high. Be proud we have defied those who have tried to wipe us out. Be proud the Jewish people rose from the dead and rebuilt their national life in their ancient homeland.”
More than 100 Holocaust survivors and former American soldiers who liberated concentration camps joined the throngs of international youths.
Participants marched the few kilometers from Auschwitz to the Birkenau extermination camp, where they heard prominent speakers including Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Israel Police Chief Yochanan Danino.
Lau related his experience in Auschwitz and said “Jews and non-Jews — we are all one family.”
“We must lend a helping hand and remember what happened here,” he said.
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