They gathered to sing about nothing other than life, while commemorating death. Today in Israel is Holocaust Memorial Day, where we remember the six million murders which took place only 80 years ago.
Events, memorials and gatherings take place all over the country, including a special group singing event where 600 Holocaust survivors and their families unified with one voice to sing “Chai,” meaning life or alive, by Ofra Haza. The event took place thanks to collaboration between the Jerusalem culture center, Beit Avi Chai, Koolulam, a social music platform bringing people together with the power of song, and Zikaron Basalon, a global initiative to create new and intimate discussions surrounding the Holocaust.
While this unique opportunity allowed for Holocaust survivors and their great-grand children to sing for good, the annual siren rings across the country-wide speaker system for two minutes, begging all to pause for a moment of silence.
The entire country stops with intention to remember the victims – our family members – who were brutally beaten, shot, murdered at the hands of hate. The typically bustling Thursday morning streets of Tel Aviv experience a moment which feels quite like the end of the world, because it was, for six million souls, families and dreams.
The day continues as it does, with sorrow and despair at the thought that mini-genocides are still taking place and that such hatred still rages on Earth. While there are endless random acts of violence based on racism and entitlement, remembering the Holocaust is a stark reminder of the way the Jewish people literally had nothing but each other – and still survived.
Today, younger generations have been blessed, born into a fleeting time of opportunity and abundance – though, whether realized or not, we all still carry with us the hardships of the Holocaust. It’s baked into our DNA. We are used to suffering and savoring life – what we do every day as Jews – and perhaps why Jewish culture is so vibrant, innovative and flourishing. There is a constant need to feel, to appreciate, to enjoy life.
If we are indeed programmed to suffer and savor, perhaps that’s also why we operate consistently in survival mode – protective and defensive all the time. Protective of our people, ready at instant to flush out any instance of the pure hatred, to defend what is ours – certain that we will never again allow others to take from us – our life.