Source: AP, 5-2-11
Israel came to a standstill Monday morning with a two-minute siren heard across the country as Israelis paid tribute to the 6 million Jews who perished during the Nazi Holocaust.
Pedestrians froze in their tracks, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways — their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed — in the annual ritual marking Holocaust Memorial Day.
In keeping with tradition, media carried somber music and numerous tales from the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors that included some 200,000 elderly Israelis. But the melancholy nature of the day was leavened by news that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden just hours before.
“This successful operation sends the important message that terror and evil will find no permanent shelter and will eventually be destroyed, just as the Nazis decades before,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said.
The Holocaust ended in 1945 with the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany. But the Nazi extermination of nearly a third of the world’s Jewish population remains a strong undercurrent in Israel.
Speaking at Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial, Prime Minister says Israel must be prepared to defend itself modern enemies, such as Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.
The threats Israel faces to its existence are real, not theoretical ones, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem on Sunday, urging the world not to ignore the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Speaking of the three main lessons Israel must learn in the Holocaust’s wake, Netanyahu spoke first of the danger which lies in ignoring the threats of those “wishing to annihilate us,” saying Israelis “mustn’t bury our heads in the sand.
“Has the world learned this lesson? I doubt it. Have we learned it? I believe we have,” Netanyahu said, adding, however, that “we must admit that “in the history of the Jewish people we have not always excelled in anticipating the future, sometimes repressing the bleak reality before us.”
Referring further on the ability to anticipate coming catastrophes, Netanyahu said that while “many in the world, at least in the enlightened world, treat the memory of the Holocaust respectfully and seriously,” that attitude, however, “recalls generals preparing for the previous war.”
“It seems easier for the world to discuss the lessons of the past than implement those to the present and the future,” the premier said, adding that “the Jewish people mustn’t ignore the Holocaust’s lessons today.”
“Because today, new enemies are rising, and as they deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of our people,” the PM said, adding that “Iran, and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas are openly working to destroy the Jewish state.”
Speaking of the world’s response to such an effort, Netanyahu said that all “cultured citizens of the world, those who say they are implementing the lessons of the Holocaust, should denounce in no uncertain terms those wishing to destroy the Jewish state, and even arming themselves with nuclear weapons in order to realize those ambitions.”
“The threat to our existence isn’t a theoretical one, it cannot be minimized, it stands before us, before all of humanity, and it must be stopped,” he said.
The second lesson, according to the premier, “stems from the fact that attacks on our people were always preceded by waves of hatred which prepared the ground for those attacks,” insisting on the need “to expose the true face of the hate against our people.”
“Today too there are people who charge the Jewish state with responsibility for all of the world’s ills, from rising gas prices to regional instability,” Netanyahu said.
The third and final lesson the premier discussed in his speech was the need for the Jewish people to take its defense in its own hands, saying: “We cannot hand over our fate to the hands of others.”
“Our ties with the various countries are very important to us. But if we cannot defend ourselves, the world will not do it for us. Israel is a peace-loving country, a cultured country, developed, a sea of progress in a region devoid of progress. We will stand tall against those who wish to kill us.”
“It should be said here on this day to all our enemies that they should know one thing about the Jewish people – it has overcome the greatest evil humanity has ever known, and that when the people of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces say ‘Never Again’ they mean every word.”