Aston Hall, Built in 1618, taken over by Birmingham Municipal Council in 1864 the first historic stately home to taken into public ownership. Aston , Birmingham, England
All Original Photography by http://vwcampervan-aldridge.tumblr.com
By Elisa Llewellyn
Yom HaShoah is Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day. My fellow teaching volunteers and I went north to meet with Holocaust survivors for a commemorative ceremony at Zichron Yaakov. Close to 10 a.m., we stopped at a gas station in preparation for Israel’s memorial siren.
When the siren began, conversation ceased. Passing motorists stopped and exited their vehicles. For two minutes, we stood at attention in the silence of the siren’s wail. Two minutes of solidarity with the victims of the Holocaust, time to consider where we stand in the wake of our history. Two minutes, to commune with the ghosts of our past, collectively seized by our remembered horror.
Holocaust Remembrance Day in the USA is a quieter, less overt affair. We meet in synagogues and small groups, sharing stories of those who survived and those we were forced to leave behind. We take a few moments to reflect and to mourn, but the sadness, the heavy awareness of the day does not permeate our mealtimes, our working hours, or our commutes. It’s simply not a memory woven into the fabric of the American national identity.
Life in the desert of Israel’s south, the Negev, teaches us the value of a siren’s warning. This is surely a familiar experience to residents of Midwestern USA’s tornado alley. When the siren goes off, we seek shelter, hoping for danger to pass us by. As we waited on Yom HaShoah for the moment of stillness to end, I was agonized by the realization that the siren was coming over 70 years too late.
The siren calls us to attention, insisting we never allow such a disaster to befall us again - but it also reminds us that there was no advanced warning for those lost to the Holocaust. And so for Yom HaShoah in Israel we stand symbolically at attention: reminded to maintain vigilance, acutely aware of the danger that once failed to pass us by.