Monday, April 16, 2007

Holocaust Remembrance Day & Viva La France

Today all over Israel flags flew at half-mast and sirens wailed to commemorate Yom HaShoah ("Yom" = Day, "HaShoah" = The Holocaust - i.e., Holocaust Remembrance Day).

At 10 minutes to 10:00 a.m. this morning, Yehudit, our Hebrew teacher, stopped the class and asked if any of the students would like to join her in the courtyard below to listen to the sirens and observe a moment of silence in honor of the 6 million Jews who were killed by the Nazis and their European collaborators during WWII.

I joined Yehudit as well as Raphael, a Jewish pensioner from Paris who appears to be in his mid-60's and has just made Aliyah.

Accompanying us as well were Enzo, a Christian Italian man who has moved to Israel, and Malik, Jack and Hassan, three young Arab men from East Jerusalem who are also in our class. Malik and Hassan are Moslem Arabs, and Jack is a Christian Arab from a Greek Orthodox family.

Enzo, trying to be helpful and informative, attempted to explain to the Arab students that "The Germans" killed the Jews during the war, conveniently overlooking the role that Fascist Italy played in the Axis power grid that held the entire world in its deadly sway from 1939-1945.

Raphael, a trim and quiet gentleman who speaks ONLY French and absolutely NO English and knows only "Prayerbook Hebrew", wears a yarmulke over his white hair. We stood together in the courtyard while every single siren in the entire country - and just imagine how many that might be, for a country constantly under attack - wailed like a hundred thousand shofars being blown together for a full, long minute.

The sound of the sirens drifted on the wind like smoke, and dissolved into silence like the whisper of the last cigarette being stubbed out in a bed of ashes.

The Arab students bowed their heads in respect during the sirens and the moment of silence, and as soon as it was over, slipped off to get coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk to girls, taking Enzo with them.

When it was over Raphael and I looked at each other in shocked silence, as if to say: that's it? That's all we can do for them...the millions who died just because of being what WE are - Jews?

Rapahel and I have no common language. All I could say to him was: "Kaddish?"

"Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'may rabah," he began, and with tears streaming down his face he stood in the school courtyard, surrounded by indifferent youngsters, reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, with only me to say "amen."

It was the most beautiful, terrible, moving, important moment. Because it summarizes everything I can't explain to other people about being a Jew.

I don't speak French and he doesn't speak English but we both knew Kaddish needed to be said - and he said it, and I said "amen" in all the right places, and when it was over he walked away, wiping tears from his cheeks and I walked away, wiping my own eyes and thanking Almighty G_d for FRANCE.

Yes, Viva La France for being a country so full of anti-Semitic assholes that it drove this perfectly nice, polite, cultured man to leave Paris after the end of his career and retire in Jerusalem just so we could have this one moment of holy solemnity together, and by reciting the words of the Kaddish prayer, honor and remember the 6 million Jews who died, just for being Jews.

And let us also remember that, politically speaking, the modern State of Israel came into being because of those 6 million dead Jews whose ashes, skeletal remains and suffocating crematoria so shocked and horrified the world that for ONE SINGLE MINUTE humanity felt guilty enough to vote in the United Nations General Assembly to grant the Jews a small, ugly, hot, fetid patch of desert in the most dangerous backwater part of the planet so that the next time a Hitler came along and wanted to kill us, WE WOULD HAVE A COUNTRY OF OUR OWN.

And we do. It's called Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel...thank G_d.

Viva La France, the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, for still hating us so much that Jews like Raphael are coming HOME to Eretz Israel, at last.

FROM THE JERUSALEM POST: MORE ABOUT FRANCE: Jean-Marie Le Pen, France's far-right National Front leader and presidential hopeful, said Sunday that outgoing President Jacques Chirac's 1995 recognition of France's responsibility for the deportation of Jews during World War II was regrettable... Chirac was the first French president to acknowledge the state's responsibility.... According to Le Pen, Chirac's remarks are scandalous because they taint the country's image...Le Pen is the one who said the gas chambers were nothing but a detail to minimize the importance of the Holocaust...a statement that cost him a €183,200 fine from the French Justice Department.


Global anti-Semitism is spiraling upward, driven by xenophobia and cultural clashes in Europe and by increasingly virulent anti-Zionism in the Arab world, according to a comprehensive study of anti-Semitic incidents released by a Tel Aviv University research institute on Sunday.
"Once, when we were talking about anti-Semitism we were talking about [desecrated] gravestones... Now the main targets are religious Jews, since "they are identifiable" to attackers..."
There was a dramatic rise "in physical, verbal and visual manifestations" of anti-Semitism in 2006, according to the Roth Institute, which prepared the report...In all, 590 incidents of violence or vandalism were recorded in 2006, a 15 percent increase from 2004 and a seven-fold increase from 1989.
The 2006 figures also represents a 31% increase from 2005, when anti-Semitic incidents declined after several years of increases.
"In two countries - France and Norway - chief rabbis are calling on Jews not to step outside with Jewish symbols on their person," said Prof. Dina Porat...The breakdown of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide is heavily tilted toward Western Europe, which witnessed 54% of them, followed by North America - whose Jewish population is over five times the size of Western Europe's - with just 17% and the former Soviet Union with 13%.
Britain, with 136 "major violent incidents," saw a 20-year high in 2006. France, with 97 such incidents, witnessed a 45% increase and the French-speaking regions of Canada saw a doubling of violent attacks over a year earlier.
...the attacks...increased over the years in each country...and now tended to target people rather than Jewish buildings or graves.
According to the report, desecration of graves accounted for 53% of the incidents in 1999 (60 recorded attacks). Even though such attacks rose by 50% by 2006, their share of total attacks shrank to 16% of the total in 2006, while attacks on people - usually in the street - grew to 47% of the total."

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