My “Two-Siren” Yom Hashoah

My “Two-Siren” Yom Hashoah

On Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), sirens are sounded across Israel at ten in the morning. Every Israeli stands at attention in silent memory of the six million murdered by the Nazis in their attempt at a “Final Solution.” This morning, two sirens were sounded in my town, Katzrin; one for the victims of the Holocaust and the other to warn residents of rockets launched by Hezbollah, a modern manifestation of an ancient evil.

Jewish holidays tend to come in waves. This time of year is punctuated by three national holidays with an implicit internal connection: Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). I waited in trepidation as the time approached. October 7 was still foremost in the consciousness of every Israeli, especially as the war ground on. October 7 was a horrific terrorist attack, but unlike other tragedies that faded as time went on, the following months revealed a deeper, more horrifying truth. Israel was attacked on multiple fronts: north, east, south, and even from distant Iran. The deep-seated Jew’hated, which had been hidden below the surface on American campuses, burst to the surface. For the first time since World War II, Jews were demonized and hated with no sanctuary.

Holocaust comparisons are usually shunned by Jews. In a particularly grotesque form of anti-factual antisemitism, Jew-haters demonize Israel by comparing its treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of Jews. But no matter how bad any anti-Jewish atrocity was, Jews never compared it to the Holocaust. With the largest population of Holocaust survivors, Israel knew that any tragedy paled in comparison to the deaths of six million.

That was true until October 7. I entered Yom Hashoah with the recent memory of living through the most horrific day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. October 7 changed the Jewish people. We were faced with the realization that we had failed in our pledge of ‘Never Again.’ The IDF, the wall that stood between us and another Holocaust, had faltered, stumbled for a brief moment that allowed the Palestinians to realize their dream of continuing the Nazi mission. 

While Israel recovered, similarities to the Holocaust began to emerge. Jew hatred was reborn as the driving force behind several nations and international organizations. While this was unsurprising, its intensity flaming up was stunning. The UN and UNRWA no longer felt it necessary to hide their active support of terrorist organizations with Jewish blood on their hands.

But Israel was in for another unpleasant surprise. When studying the Holocaust, Jews are always faced with the question of why the Jews of Europe stayed. They surely must have seen the writing on the wall after the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht. American Jews are facing the same screaming crowds. And despite being able to leave (for the time being), there is no call for a Jewish exodus from the US. Surely, the rabbis, in their wisdom, would lead their flocks out of the jaws of danger. But the American rabbis are silent. The only Jewish voices raised in warning, screaming against the raging monster that threatens American Jews, are Jewish students. However, these students, raised by their parents and communities to be leaders in the liberal world, were never given the strength of the Torah to guide them in today’s challenging reality.

We are watching the same story play out in real-time. Just as in pre-war Nazi Germany, Jews are being excluded from universities. While the US has not passed anti-Jewish laws, openly antisemitic lawmakers are quickly taking over the US Congress with the same youthful zeal as the Brown Shirts. And social media has taken on the face of a Nazi rally in the Kongresshalle, with millions of faceless Hitlers urging each other on.

To be honest, there are far too many similarities between what is happening today and the events and atmosphere that led to the Holocaust. I cannot list them all. But there are three differences.

The first difference is that we now have Israel as a refuge from foreign governments that have abandoned their morality and their Jewish citizens. There will never be another SS Exodus, traveling from port to port in search of a safe haven for its Jewish passengers. El Al stands ready, and just as it snatched the Jews from the jaws of danger in Ethiopia, flying them home on the Wings of Eagles as long-lost brothers, El Al can be trusted to bring any endangered Jews to safety.

The second difference is the IDF. When Israel was attacked, this generation answered. After more than six months of war, morale remains very high. While the Israeli government wavers, weighing political considerations, every Israeli citizen knows that not a single soldier will agree to come home until all the hostages are returned and every last Hamas and Hezbollah is dead. 

But the third difference is truly stunning. Righteous Gentiles did exist in the Holocaust. Their deeds and devotion were awe-inspiring. They showed the greatness of the human spirit. While there are far too many to list in this article, they were the exception and very much not the rule. Yes, faith-based Jew-hatred and antisemitism is common among Christians. But there is a more-than-significant Christian movement that loves the Nation of Israel because of their Christian faith and not despite it.

There is one more new aspect that has me terrified. Some purveyors of Jew-hatred have learned to be polite, to speak in socially acceptable terms, and to be politically correct. While it is no longer acceptable to advocate for Judenrein or a “Final Solution,” the “moral necessity” of ethnically cleansing Jews is being sold as a “two-state solution.” While it is no longer polite to advocate for a Holocaust, Obama pushed through the Iran deal, greenlighting and even funding an Iranian nuclear weapons program while the Iranians were screaming ‘Death to Israel’ and writing this phrase on their ICBMs. 

And when President Biden was informed by the Iranian government of their intention to fire a massive wave of these weapons at the Jewish state, he told them that he would not intervene or prevent them.

So, as the second siren of the day begins to fade, I am reminded that the old evil has simply taken on a new face. As my wife explained, the first siren was because they were trying to kill us. The second siren was because they had already killed so many of us, not so long ago. 

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