Israel prepares to mark Holocaust Day

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 20, 2009

(by Etgar Lefkovits, JPost.com) – The State of Israel will pause Monday night in memory of the six million Jews who perished from 1933-1945, as the country marks the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The annual state ceremony which ushers in the start of the 24-hour commemoration will begin after sunset at 8 p.m. at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

The solemn hour-and-a-quarter opening event, which will be broadcast live on television channels and radio stations, will be attended by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and Holocaust survivor Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, as well as scores of dignitaries and ambassadors from around the world.

The central theme of this year’s ceremony is Children in the Holocaust. Some 1.5 million Jewish children were killed by the Nazis.

During the ceremony, which will include a mix of speeches and somber musical interludes, six torches will be lit by survivors in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The chief rabbis of Israel will recite a selection from Psalms as well as the kaddish mourning prayer.

A 16-year-old will play a violin that belonged to a 12-year-old partisan, Mordechai (Motele) Schlein, killed in the Holocaust and whose violin is on display at the Holocaust Museum.

All places of entertainment will be closed on Monday night.

A two-minute siren will sound on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the start of a series of daylong ceremonies throughout the nation.

The official state wreath-laying ceremony will take place just after the siren is sounded at the Warsaw Ghetto uprising memorial at Yad Vashem in the presence of the prime minister and other VIPs.

The “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony will follow – in which Holocaust victims’ names are read out – at both the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem and the Knesset.

Approximately 250,000 Holocaust survivors are living in the country.

About one-third of them live in poverty, recent Israeli welfare reports have found, prompting a recent landmark government accord to increase their state stipends.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s commemoration, a new exhibition and material about children killed in the Holocaust is accessible on Yad Vashem’s Web site www.yadvashem.org.

More than 8 million people have visited the site in the past year.

In addition, over 1.3 million people have visited Yad Vashem’s four YouTube channels, launched over the previous year, including more than 1 million who entered the English channel, 140,000 the Arabic channel, 72,000 the Hebrew channel and 30,000 the Spanish channel.

Separately, a prominent demographer has estimated that if not for the Holocaust there would be as many as 32 million Jews in the world today, instead of the current 13 million.

The figures appear in a forthcoming article by Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio Della Pergola which will be published in an educational Hebrew periodical put out by Yad Vashem.

Before the outbreak of World War II, there were an estimated 16.5 million Jews in the world.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Jerusalem Post. Visit the website at jpost.com.

Questions

1. What is the Hebrew name for Holocaust Remembrance Day?

2. What is the central theme of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day? What is Yad Vashem doing to honor this theme?

3. What will the six torches lit during the opening ceremony tonight at Yad Vashem represent?

4. What will mark the beginning of memorial ceremonies tomorrow?

5. What is the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony?

6. a) How many Holocaust survivors are living in Israel today?
b) How many Jews were in the world before WWII?
c) How many Jews are in the world today?
d) According to a demographer’s estimates, how many Jews would there be in the world today if they hadn’t been murdered in the Holocaust?

7. Visit the websites in the “Resources” section below.
a) Watch at least one video from Yad Vashem on the youtube sites. What did you learn that you did not know before about the Holocaust?
b) Visit the website that lists the Holocaust museums around the world. Which museum is closest to your home?

8. What do you think students should do each year to learn about and remember the Holocaust?


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Background

Yom HaShoah (in Hebrew) – “Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism” (known in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day), is observed as a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In Israel, it is a national memorial day.

Yad Vashem (“Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority”) is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953. The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:5).

Resources

For the Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Israel, go to yadvashem.org.

For the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., go to ushmm.org.

For a list of Holocaust Museums around the world, go to science.co.il/Holocaust-Museums.asp.

Read here about the newest Holocaust Museum to open outside of Chicago, IL.

Visit the Yad Vashem page on Children of the Holocaust.

Watch videos posted at youtube from Yad Vashem.

and Yad Vashem’s youtube page at youtube.com/user/YadVashem.