Culture Minister Miri Regev insisted on a last-minute addition of Holocaust sound effects to the otherwise festive main celebration of Israel’s 70th Independence Day to be held Wednesday night in Jerusalem.
Some attendees at the dress rehearsal for the torch-lighting event on Monday night told Army Radio that, at one point during the show, they were shocked to hear the sounds of trains and dogs barking coming from dozens of loudspeakers, as children wearing yellow stars and carrying suitcases walked across the stage.
“I’m very pleased with how we nailed the Holocaust in this display,” Regev told the radio station on Tuesday. “It is just the right dose.”
She said that the Holocaust routine was part of a segment about the historical tragedies that have affected the Jewish people over the centuries, but she wanted to ensure that it stood out.
“The Holocaust was the most horrific event in human history,” she said, “and it was important to give it the appropriate prominence.”
Sources close to Regev told the Haaretz daily that the culture minister had stayed up until 4 a.m. on Monday trying to figure out how best to feature the memory of the Holocaust in the ceremony. She reportedly decided to add the children with yellow stars after passersby who watched an earlier rehearsal told her that if the event was going to touch on the Holocaust, it needed to stand out more.
The historical section of the event will also include tragedies such as the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem and attempts to bring Jews to the country and create settlements during the British Mandate period, the report said.
“The purpose of this display is to show how we emerged from the inferno and suffering of the Holocaust to establish a state,” the source said.
Hebrew social media sites were ablaze with criticism of the culture minister for what they called her “cynical” use of the Holocaust at the event.
Regev said the annual state ceremony at Mount Herzl will be accompanied by an official song to celebrate Israel’s 70th, followed by the largest fireworks display in the country’s history.
Independence Day celebrations begin on Wednesday night, as the country transitions from Memorial Day’s 24 hours of mourning for its fallen soldiers and terror victims, with Thursday a public holiday.