In April Israel is caught between two memorials, Holocaust Day and Memorial Day for those fallen in Israel's wars of defence and the victims of terrorism.
This week Israel commemorated the memory of six million Jewish men, women and children who were lost to us, slaughtered by the Nazis in Europe during the Second World War. The war ended before the Nazis were able to make inroads on the populations of Jews who had settled in Greece and the Sephardi [Arab] lands but that was certainly their plan.
As a child I suffered recurrent dreams. Nazi boots stomped up the stairs to our apartment in the Bronx, broke down our door and dragged us out of our beds. I had been exposed to the outspoken memories of survivors from our family and of childhood friends from my mother's home town in Poland. I have Sephardic friends who had similar fears. That "other planet", the Holocaust experience is inscribed on Jewish DNA.
On Holocaust Memorial day, a two minute siren sounded at 10:00 a.m. All over the country we stood silent, traffic stopped and people emerged from cars and buses and stood in the road. At home, I went up to my roof to connect with my fellow countrymen and with them said a quiet prayer. We united in memory and love, wept and returned to our daily routine.That night we tucked our children into their beds behind secure Israeli doors that we will never again allow to be violated by the brutality of miserable wretches who are filled with hate.
The mystery of senseless hatred and of evil continues to threaten us today.
Below is a translated excerpt of a Hebrew poem which appears in my book, "The Secret Life of the Birds", published by Sifriyat HaPoalim, Tel Aviv. The subject is the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral land. If at that time - during the 1930's and 1940's - we had a home, i.e. the State of Israel - the Holocaust would not have taken place.
When first she strode the sunlit land
- awaiting her return like a faithful lover -
a wail of sirens summoned the lost generations,
her tears rose like rain to fill the hollowed imprint
of her bare feet in the good earth.
When first she spoke the ancient living letters,
an articulation of rams horns renewed the festivals of life,
clicking palm trees bent to whisper wind legends
of what had been and the light of days to come.
Shira Twersky-Cassel (C)