by Lynda Burstein Brayer for The Saker Blog
In this edition of Palestine Potpourri I have decided to concentrate on one of the special features of Jewish life in Palestine, and modern Jewish life in particular. It is the Jewish fascination with death, and the centrality of death within their self-understanding. It seems to be rather unique as a cultural phenomenon gluing the community together, but one must also remember that it has given rise to the thriving business of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Day will be “celebrated” in Israel on May 1, 2019, six days before the Memorial day for fallen soldiers and a week before Independence Day on May 8, which is always calculated according to the Jewish calendar.
This is the national program which will be shown on television.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY EVENTS 2019
THE EVE OF HOLOCAUST AND HEROISM REMEMBRANCE DAY
Wednesday, May 1, 2018 – 26th of Nissan 5779
THE STATE OPENING CEREMONY AT YAD VASHEM
In the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Knesset and the President of the Supreme Court—Warsaw Ghetto Square. Admission to the State Opening Ceremony is by invitation only.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on television, radio and the Yad Vashem website.
8:00 pm, Warsaw Ghetto Square, Yad Vashem, Mount Herzl
THE HOLOCAUST AND HEROISM REMEMBRANCE DAY
Thursday, May 2, 2019 – 27th Of Nissan 5779
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY EVENTS AT YAD VASHEM
10:00 am – Siren
10:02 am – Wreath-laying ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.
11:00-12:45 am – “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” – Public recitation of Holocaust victims’ names at the Hall of Remembrance in Yad Vashem.
11:00-14:30 pm – “Behind the Scenes” – Activities for the general public on the Yad Vashem campus. A series of gatherings with Yad Vashem experts will be on offer to the public, at which participants will have access to documents and artifacts that are not on display year-round. Further details are available on the Yad Vashem website.
1:00 pm – Main memorial ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance in Yad Vashem.
17:30 pm – Ceremony for Youth Movements at the Valley of the Communities. Admission to the ceremony is by invitation only.
On Wednesday, 11 April 2018, Yad Vashem will be open to the public until 12:00 only.
On Thursday, 12 April 2018, Yad Vashem will be open to the public until 20:00 (entrance to the Holocaust History Museum until 19:00). The Holocaust History Museum will open at 9:00. The Visual Center and Children’s Memorial will open at 11:00.
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY EVENTS AT SAFRA SQUARE
The Jerusalem Municipality will hold a memorial ceremony at Safra Square, May 2, 2019 which will be led by 12th graders sharing their experiences from their journey to Poland in the presence of Holocaust survivors living in Jerusalem.
08:15 am, Safra Square, Jerusalem
It is clear from the program that Holocaust Day is a serious and important event in the Israeli Jewish calendar. Here a somewhat “out of line” approach , but only in the Israeli context, voiced in an article published in the Israeli liberal newspaper “Haaretz” on April 28, 2019. I have provided the absent “punch line” explaining how radical it is in the Jewish-Israeli context.
From “Eva’s history” to a selfie at Auschwitz
A hand breaks through the wire fence, holding a smart phone. If Instagram had a child in the Holocaust, how many followers would it have had? It is impossible to cross the Ayalon highway snaking through Tel-Aviv without confronting the yellow-flagged street signs (as per lemon-yellow or banana-yellow), announcing the new special for the coming Holocaust Day. “Eva’s History” seeks to bring to the attention of the younger generation the story of Eva Heiman, a 13 year old girl from Hungary, who wrote a diary during the Nazi occupation and was sent to the death camp in Auschwitz, where she was murdered.[sic-LBB]
A reprint of her diary, published in Israel for the first time in 1964, and advertisements in the newspapers do not help give momentum to this story. The youth do not read newspapers, and they read even less books. A stage adaptation starring Noa Kirel, an 18 year old Israeli singer, actress and TV host, is always an option, but the young star is apparently very busy now having issued a single inspired by the story of a Jewish boy taken from the Lodz ghetto. “There is no business like Shoah business” so we have no choice. We must give little Eva an account on Instush (an Israeli twitter) together with life-like stories with German actors and period costumes accompanied by the TV hosts Agam Rodberg and Guy Pines, who will produce something really big, really showy, something to be spoken about!
The rationale is simple. If the mountain does not come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain. Young men and women do not want to hear about the girl Eva? Wait till you see what we’ve prepared for you. We will bring to life the Holocaust of European Jewry in a way that you never dreamt of! We will drench you with it so that you cannot escape from it. This is the name of the game. Make it accessible and mollycoddling at one and the same time!!!
But I’m sorry to spoil the party!! Accessibility should not have been expected to succeed: it was doomed to failure from the start. Why? Because all of it is tainted with condescension and contempt for the youth treating them as if they were two-legged animals, as if all their desires begin and end with their whatsapp groups. The person who conceived this project does not know teenagers. Perhaps he has heard stories or read eulogies, but if he had bothered to meet them, to talk to them, he would have learned that they can smell that shtick or idiocy from miles away, and would not be tempted to follow its superficiality.
True, we parents have the responsibility to teach our children the lessons of the Holocaust. This responsibility carries a great challenge. What again? We have to teach about the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto? Operation Barbarossa? The magnificent [sic] kidnapping of Eichmann by the Mossad? Or the letters and testimonies which we stuff down their throats of Holocaust victims from first grade until their pilgrimage to Auschwitz?
We must break through the veil of banality of the rituals with the black Bristol and glittering memorials, and use creative and critical tools that will encourage discourse and thought. As a teacher I come across it again every year. Holocaust Day is approaching, and the e-mail box is sent out of a few lesson plans on the subject, which she collected for us, hard as an ant, responsible for pedagogy at school.
Their stimulus threshold is high, and in order to cross it, new roads must be carved in the rock. But the fictitious Instagram account of a girl who was murdered in the Holocaust will not be and cannot be a legitimate way. First, it is a show of bad taste, marketed aggressively, and second, much more serious, it will have consequences. The road from “Eva’s Story” to the “selfie” at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau is short and steep, and at the end all the naysayers will cluck their tongues and nod their heads, and in turn tell us about the lost and detached youth, devoid of values and shamelessness.
Last year, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we learned about German resistance to Nazism and talked about Sophie Scholl and the “White Rose” group. Sophie was only a few years older than my students when she joined her brother Hans and scattered protest posters at the university in Munich that cost her life. I called on my students to distribute their flyers for their own ends, whatever they were. For dessert we watched Tom Cruise try to assassinate Hitler and failed. To teach them that Tom Cruise is just a human being.
At the end of the lesson, one of the students approached me. She noticed that on my desk was a book on the subject, which I used to prepare for the class, and asked to ask him. She looks to her on the cake, Sophie Scholl. A week later came back with new insights. Would you believe it? A girl sat at her house, opened a book, and read it.
Y. Mendelssohn is a musician and a teacher of citizenship
This article is very interesting from the point of view that the author, a musician and teacher of citizenship, bewails the “lachrymose” method of Jewish history. This phrase was introduced by the famous Jewish historian, Salo Baron, who decried this “victimhood” version of Jewish history. In iddish, this is the nebich approach. “Oh the poor Jews!!! Oh what they have suffered! Oh! Oh! Oh!” This has now been standard since WWII and the Holocaust myth is not merely integral to this approach, but is the very heart and core of the modern Jewish understanding, if not actual experience. Jews talk about second and third generation Holocaust “survivors” [sic]. Here, the writer is “tired” of this same old, same old, cry-baby stories of people who lost their lives in the “Holocaust” whether told through letters or through testimonies collected after the war. He also decries the “theatrical” promotion of another nebich story – the Eva story!! More horrors, more crying, more death etc!!
Instead he suggests a new approach and believe me, it is totally radical in the Jewish Israeli setting. He suggests approaching the Holocaust from a non-Jewish perspective! His approach is radical because he is ignoring the central characteristic Jewish “holocaust” narrators have promoted since 1967 – the “uniqueness” of the Jewish experience. He has the gall to mention a goy, Sophie Scholl, in positive terms!!! Literally unheard of!!!! I did not bring any of the comments which followed the article but many were in this vein condemning the writer’s approach!
I do not want to make too fine a point of it but many have come to the conclusion that the deliberate extermination of six million Jews belongs in the realm of the mythical rather in factual history. So one may ask what is the lesson of the so-called Holocaust? There is no dissension concerning the fact that Hitler wanted to expel the Jews from Germany and that they were not transported by luxury wagons-lit to the east. But given that all the local populations suffered atrociously during WWII, what should we learn from this brutality?
I think it is not apposite to remind the readers that these lines follow on the Passover festival just celebrated by the Jews, the festival of both the Renewal of life and Freedom! The name derives from the “passing over” of the angel of death of the homes of the Children of Israel dwelling in the land of Goshen in Egypt under an oppressive Pharoah! This is the biblical story in which the Egyptian children were smote while the children of the Children of Israel were saved by God’s hand, an “event” celebrated yearly at the Seder table in Jewish homes, where the story is repeated with the killing of the first-born of the Egyptians stressed with glee!
And here, in the reality of Israel today, April 30, was a report of a young Palestinian living under the military occupation of the West Bank of Palestine,aged 20 years old, who was shot by Israeli soldiers because he “threatened” them – a term used repeatedly without any accompanying evidence or explanation. He was taken to a Jewish hospital in Israel where he was strapped down in the bed and held by hand-cuffs while the doctors tried to treat him but it was obvious he was about to die. His family tried to get permission to visit him before he passed away but not one Israeli authority would do anything: not the army, not the legal advisor to the army, not the department of Justice of Israel and not the court! He died alone and abandoned. This is an example of the “compassionate compassion of Jews” which comes from the Hebrew – rahmanim bnei rahmabim used without any tongue in cheek!
Which brings me to another example of Israeli/Jewish autism. Zionist leaders have always touted Israel/the Jews as a “light to the nations”. Day in and day out Palestinians are routed from their beds at 2 am, children are woken up, thrown out of their beds, parents are shooed to the wall, the beds are overturned, the cupboards emptied and the people cower in fear of whatever brutality they cannot think of but which will be invented by the most “moral army in the world” the Israeli Defence [sic] Forces – who, in a myriad of self-same instances- defend themselves from sleeping attackers. One could say that this is hardly worth mentioning except for the fact that it indicates that there is not one facet, and even the smallest one, in which Palestinians have the safety of privacy.
There is a group of Israeli women who have voluntarily taken upon themselves to watch the border crossings between Israel and the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. They are called “Machsom Watch” and they issue daily reports. In one poignant incident, an observer wrote the following:
“A man K’ approached us who lives in Yabed, a village near a northern border crossing. He asked our help in providing him with books teaching Hebrew to Arabic speakers – a suggestion which we accepted with pleasure. He told us that the soldiers broke into his home, that they were looking for his brother, broke many things sins the house but did not find him. He said that he was interested in learning Hebrew so that he could talk [sic] to the soldiers”.
If there is one thing a Palestinian cannot do successfully, it is “talk” to the soldiers, explain to the soldiers. I would like to write another essay on this subject another time, but basically Palestinians are not counted within the species” homo sapiens” for the Israeli authorities. Israelis do not listen to Palestinians talking!
The author is an Israeli lawyer who has represented Palestinians in the Israeli courts. She has lived in Israel/Palestine for over fifty years and considers herself political dissident and lives in an Arab township. She writes out of her own experiences.