Israelis to pause in memory of 6 million Jews killed in Holocaust

Outdoor life grinds to a halt at 10 a.m. as two-minute siren wails; Herzog, Netanyahu, Hayut and survivors to lay wreaths at Yad Vashem ceremony

Israelis stand still next to their cars on a freeway as a two-minute siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 28, 2022 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israelis stand still next to their cars on a freeway as a two-minute siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 28, 2022 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel will grind to a halt for two minutes on Tuesday morning, as the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day siren wails to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II.

The siren grinds outdoor life to a standstill, with pedestrians standing in place, buses stopping on busy streets, cars pulling over on major highways and drivers getting out to stand on the road with their heads bowed.

The official state ceremony marking Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day will commence immediately after the 10 a.m. siren, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and several Holocaust survivors will lay wreaths at the monument commemorating the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The annual “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony will subsequently be held at the Knesset, with participants reading out the names of those who perished in the Holocaust.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller ceremonies will take place throughout the day at municipality buildings, schools and Holocaust memorial monuments across the country.

Herzog will host a closing ceremony at the President’s Residence at 8 p.m.

President Isaac Herzog speaks at the main Holocaust memorial day ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, April 17, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Shops, restaurants and other businesses that closed on Monday evening reopened beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Many Israelis held small gatherings across the country on Monday evening to hear testimonies from the Holocaust, some from aging survivors themselves. The “Remembrance in the Living Room” events often feature song circles with somber music.

There are 147,199 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, according to figures published Sunday by the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority ahead of the upcoming Holocaust Memorial Day.

Tuesday will also see the commencement of the 35th International March of the Living, with thousands of students from around the world marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau — the largest Nazi concentration camp complex.

Joining the annual march this year will be several Holocaust survivors along with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and his predecessor David Friedman.

This year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was being held amid growing societal divisions over the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary.

During his speech at the Monday night ceremony at Yad Vashem, Herzog noted the internal tensions, urging Israelis to set them aside for the commemorations and other upcoming national holidays.

“This year is no ordinary year. And this memorial day is like no other. This year, feelings are rough and shoulders are hunched as if to attest to the weight of the discord bearing down on us,” he said. “Let us leave these sacred days, which begin tonight and end on Independence Day, above all dispute; let us all come together, as always, in partnership, in grief, in remembrance.”

Herzog ended his remarks with an appeal to unity, saying Israel’s 75-year history showed “you will not defeat us.”

Netanyahu hailed the “unique victory of the Jewish people” in the aftermath of the Holocaust, reflected on the forming of families by survivors, their coming to Israel, and never forgetting Jerusalem as a national symbol.

But, he added, this victory cannot overshadow the tragedies that the Jewish people — and others — endured during the Holocaust.

As he has in previous years, Netanyahu said that the calls to exterminate the Jewish people have not stopped, and today come from Iran. He stressed that past victories do not guarantee future wins, saying Israel must be able to “defend itself by itself against any enemy, any threat.”

Meanwhile, MK Boaz Bismuth of Netanyahu’s Likud party was forced to leave a ceremony at a synagogue in Tel Aviv after participants heckle him.

In footage on social media, people could be heard shouting, “Shame,” toward Bismuth as he attempted to speak, while others demanded they stop.

Bismuth left the synagogue as the dispute between the parts of the crowd heated up and almost became a physical altercation.

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