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Sirens and Silence, from ashes to flowers

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05.05.2022

This year’s Yom Hashoah was a difficult but meaningful three days for me. Yes, Yom Hashoah by definition is one Yom- one day. But this year, I took part in events that were spread over three days, as it worked out. On Tuesday, two days before Yom Hashoah, my high school brought in a survivor to speak. His name is Dov Landau, and he is almost 94 years old. He told his story for almost two hours to an attentive audience of grades 9-11. I don’t know if I was more amazed at how the boys listened quietly and respectfully for so long, a feat unparalleled in my memory, or by his story itself. He went through multiple work camps and ghettos, and almost managed to save even his father, although he lost most of the rest of his family. After surviving all of this, he then went on to Israel, where he fought for the newly established state. The most amazing part of it, to me, was how he retained his faith as well. But he had promised his father, and he kept that promise. This week, while I was doing laundry, I thought about the striped pants he had shown us- the prisoner pants that were all he wore in Buchenwald. He said they wore them to work, to sleep, and again the next day. I thought of this, and stopped mentally complaining about having so much laundry to do.

On Wednesday, Erev Yom Hashoah (the eve of the day), I went on a tiyul – a trip – with a teachers’ group. We have been doing different trips all year, as part of our sabbatical. Our trip was not to Yad Vashem, as we might have expected, but to a valley near Latrun. In this valley, it was said at the time, a whole platoon of survivors of the Holocaust who had just arrived to Israel (then Palestine) on May 5th, 1948, was killed just 10 days later defending the newly born State of Israel. We learned how this small group of fighters was blamed for mistakes they hadn’t made, castigated for “not even knowing how to remove the safety catch” from their weapons. It was said that there were thousands who died because of their incompetence. It was only later on that the truth came out: these were partisans who had fought in Europe, who of course knew how to fight; they were given instructions by others, and had not made a mistake of going the wrong way; and the number of those killed was 140, of whom, only 8 were new immigrants. This was not one of our inspiring tiyulim, and left a heaviness on my heart. In particular, when I learned that those who arrived from the ashes of the Shoah and told their stories thay were not believed. Years later one wrote that they had survived 80 lashes, but were dealt the 81st by their own nation when they were disbelieved. Some things are indeed, too awful to believe, but is it not true that our people live on belief and faith? I often........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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