Rivlin urges end to political divisions sundering Holocaust memorials
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Rivlin urges end to political divisions sundering Holocaust memorials

As Holocaust Remembrance Day draws to close amid fights between left and right, president says distance of time means Israelis can move past differences to remember Shoah together

President Reuven Rivlin at the ceremony closing Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, May 2, 2019. (Mark Neiman, GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin at the ceremony closing Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, May 2, 2019. (Mark Neiman, GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin issued a call for unity in Israeli society Thursday at the closing ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Rivlin spoke as the country drew a close to 24 hours dedicated to mourning the six million dead in the Holocaust, coming amid a roiling debate over the sources of modern anti-Semitism.

“For many years, the left and right in Israel fought over memory but today, with the perspective of time, we need to try and find a way to remember together,” Rivlin said at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.

“No more left and right when it comes to the memory of the Holocaust, no more secular and religious, no more Zionists and non-Zionists, no more Sefardim and Ashkenazim, but one people remembering together, grieving together for its dead, our sons and daughters,” he urged.

Also speaking at the closing event was former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, whose is set to become Knesset opposition leader after his Blue and White party finished second in last month’s elections.

The incoming opposition leader called for “an uncompromising campaign” in the US and Europe “against extreme forces, in the leadership and the street.”

“We must be ready for a lasting campaign against extremist hate,” Gantz said.

The closing ceremony in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Yad Mordechai, on May 2, 2019, at the end of the annual Holocaust remembrance day. (Flash90)

This year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was punctuated by its juxtaposition to a shooting at a synagogue in California, the second such incident in six months, and as reports pointed to a rise in anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe and violent attacks on Jews in the US fueled by increasing nationalism.

At the same time, many on the right have pointed to mainstream anti-Israel attitudes that stray into anti-Semitic territory, such as a cartoon published by the international edition of the New York Times last week that played off classic anti-Jewish themes to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) hold a Rubik’s Cube at the Hungary-Israel Business Forum in Budapest, Hungary, on July 19, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

On Wednesday, as Remembrance Day began, Rivlin said anti-Semitism on both sides needed to be fought. He also warned the government against making common cause with nationalist parties in Eastern Europe that refuse to acknowledge their country’s role in the Holocaust, seen as an implicit rebuke of Netanyahu’s push for diplomatic gains with Hungary, Poland and other countries.

Since becoming president in 2014, a largely ceremonial role, Rivlin has used his pulpit to urge healing for the country’s right-left fractures, while also celebrating the diversity of the state’s various demographic groups.

Rivlin pointed to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, the leader of a Hasidic dynasty who died at 96 earlier this week.

Grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub of the Kaliv (Hasidic dynasty) at a special ceremony in Jerusalem on March 13, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90 )

Taub, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, had dedicated his life to Holocaust commemoration and education.

“He did not see left and right,” Rivlin said, noting that Taub had never belonged to a political party and in a news interview had said “I hate the parties, but love all my brothers and sisters who are members of them.”

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