Holocaust Remembrance Day- A photo project

This is not a regular post. I’m not even sure if I have a point to make. Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, set on the Hebrew date, the 27th of the month of NIssan, of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto.

I won’t discuss the message or messages we take from this day, be it the message of “Never Again”, or “Israel is the only place where Jews can live in freedom and safety”, or the simple obvious message of remembering the many loved ones we lost and remembering the suffering of those who survived as well.

Instead I’ll show you some photos. They aren’t photos from the 1940s, but rather photos taken today.

This morning, I grabbed my camera as I left for work, set it to black and white, and throughout the day, I’ve been taking photos of various things that have special meaning in connotation with the Holocaust,but have different meaning today. It’s been a thought provoking exercise, in realizing just how much things are different, while others have stayed the same.

My living room bookcase, filled with Jewish religious texts. The Jewish People are known as the "People of the Book", referring to the Bible, but also to the idea of continuous learning, a central principle in Jewish tradition. In 1820, the Jewish German poet, Heinrich Heine wrote that in the place where books are burned, people will be burned as well. In 1933, the Nazis began burning books that did not sit well with their ideology. The people followed soon after.

My living room bookcase, filled with Jewish religious texts. The Jewish People are known as the “People of the Book”, referring to the Bible, but also to the idea of continuous learning, a central principle in Jewish tradition. In 1820, the Jewish German poet, Heinrich Heine wrote that in the place where books are burned, people will be burned as well. In 1933, the Nazis began burning books that did not sit well with their ideology. The people followed soon after.

In the Nazi death camps, the very old and the very young were the first to be sent to the gas chambers. In the DP camps after the war, entire age groups were vastly underrepresented. But the book of Zecharya (ch8) promises: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."

In the Nazi death camps, the very old and the very young were the first to be sent to the gas chambers. In the DP camps after the war, entire age groups were vastly underrepresented. But the book of Zecharya (ch8) promises:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

IMG_2634

"There are no flowers in the ghetto", a well known text from Holocaust Memorial ceremonies says.

“There are no flowers in the ghetto”, a well known text from Holocaust Memorial ceremonies says.

One of the most moving moments on Israeli high-school trips to Poland, is when you enter the room in Auschwitz or in Majdanek, and see the hundreds of thousands of shoes, taken from Jewish prisoners, when they entered the camps. If they were "lucky" enough to be in the group not headed for the gas chambers, they were given identical wooden shoes, to go with their identical striped thin pajamas. The piles of shoes are all that is left of the individual people who entered the camps. Most of them never came out.

One of the most moving moments on Israeli high-school trips to Poland, is when you enter the room in Auschwitz or in Majdanek, and see the hundreds of thousands of shoes, taken from Jewish prisoners, when they entered the camps. If they were “lucky” enough to be in the group not headed for the gas chambers, they were given identical wooden shoes, to go with their identical striped thin pajamas. The piles of shoes are all that is left of the individual people who entered the camps. Most of them never came out.

Each of us has a name given by God and given by our parents Each of us has a name given by our stature and our smile and given by what we wear Each of us has a name given by the mountains and given by our walls Each of us has a name given by the stars and given by our neighbors Each of us has a name given by our sins and given by our longing Each of us has a name given by our enemies and given by our love Each of us has a name given by our celebrations and given by our work Each of us has a name given by the seasons and given by our blindness Each of us has a name given by the sea and given by our death.  This beautiful poem by Zelda has become a Holocaust memorial symbol. There are so many people who perished without anyone even knowing their names, without anyone to know who they were and what they did with their lives, without anyone to mourn them. A death notice, for a woman who recently died, Jerusalem 2015.

Each of us has a name
given by God
and given by our parents
Each of us has a name
given by our stature and our smile
and given by what we wear
Each of us has a name
given by the mountains
and given by our walls
Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbors
Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing
Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love
Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work
Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness
Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death.
This beautiful poem by Zelda (youtube link to Chava Alberstein’s beautiful rendition of the song) has become a Holocaust memorial symbol. There are so many people who perished without anyone even knowing their names, without anyone to know who they were and what they did with their lives, without anyone to mourn them.
A death notice, for a woman who recently died, Jerusalem 2015.

This a photo of my lunch today. Felafel may not be an original Israeli food (it's actually Egyptian), but ask any Israeli what the most Israeli food is- the answer will be Felafel. I always finish everything on my plate. It was ingrained in me from a young age, even though my parents were born in the 50s and none of my direct relatives are Holocaust survivors in the stricter sense. My father in law, who spent the war as a young child in hiding, also finishes everything on his plate. The idea of good food being thrown away is wrong to both of us. The distance of time and generations, and the fact that we live in an age of plenty has done nothing to erase such habits and instincts.

This a photo of my lunch today. Felafel may not be an original Israeli food (it’s actually Egyptian), but ask any Israeli what the most Israeli food is- the answer will be Felafel.
I always finish everything on my plate. It was ingrained in me from a young age, even though my parents were born in the 50s and none of my direct relatives are Holocaust survivors in the stricter sense. My father in law, who spent the war as a young child in hiding, also finishes everything on his plate. The idea of good food being thrown away feels wrong to both of us. The distance of time and generations, and the fact that we live in an age of plenty has done nothing to erase such habits and instincts.

An Israeli soldier. For the Jews in Europe of 1942, the idea of an Israeli soldier was unimaginable.

An Israeli soldier. For the Jews in Europe of 1942, the idea of an Israeli soldier was unimaginable.

The shining black boots of the ruthless SS soldiers have become a symbol of the Holocaust.  Now Israeli soldiers wear boots, in the Jewish state. Boots for Evil vs. Boots for Good.

The shining black boots of the ruthless SS soldiers have become a symbol of the Holocaust.
Now Israeli soldiers wear boots, in the Jewish state. Boots for Evil vs. Boots for Good.

The Nazis tore families apart. A family of Ethiopian Jews in Jerusalem 2015.

The Nazis tore families apart.
A family of Ethiopian Jews in Jerusalem 2015.

Jews crowd into a train, underneath an Israeli flag, Jerusalem 2015.

Jews crowd into a train, underneath an Israeli flag. The destination- Mount Hertzl, the final resting place of Theodore Hertzl, the foreseer of the Jewish State. Jerusalem 2015.

A band of Jewish inmates was forced to play at the gates of Auschwitz whenever a new transport of Jews arrived, in order to lull them into a false sense of security. Music, one of the purest things in this world, was twisted into a tool of the utmost evil.

A band of Jewish inmates was forced to play at the gates of Auschwitz whenever a new transport of Jews arrived, in order to lull them into a false sense of security. Music, one of the purest things in this world, was twisted into a tool of the utmost evil.

This is our neighborhood air-raid siren. Three times a year, it sounds a flat siren- once on Holocaust memorial day at 10:00, and twice on the memorial day for fallen soldiers, which will be next week, at 20:00 and at 11:00 the morning after. In 2012 and 2014 it sounded a wailing up and down siren, a sound it hadn't made in many years, to warn of incoming missiles from Gaza.

This is our neighborhood air-raid siren. Three times a year, it sounds a flat siren- once on Holocaust memorial day at 10:00, and twice on the memorial day for fallen soldiers, which will be next week, at 20:00 and at 11:00 the morning after. In 2012 and 2014 it sounded a wailing up and down siren, a sound it hadn’t made in many years, to warn of incoming missiles from Gaza.

An Israeli flag on an Israeli car, to celebrate Jewish independence in the Israeli State. Israel's 67th independence day will be celebrated next Thursday, following the memorial day for our fallen soldiers.

An Israeli flag on an Israeli car, to celebrate Jewish independence in the Israeli State. Israel’s 67th independence day will be celebrated next Thursday, following the memorial day for our fallen soldiers.

The ultimate symbol of Jewish victory over the Nazis- the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem.

The ultimate symbol of Jewish victory over the Nazis- the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem.

So much is different today. So many things that are innocent today, meant something sinister then. And yet, I suddenly realized yesterday that I find it completely normal that when I go abroad to Europe, in the 21st century, I have to wear a hat over my Kipa (Jewish skullcap), in order to hide the fact that I’m Jewish.

_____________________

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