I recently got to experience something extremely powerful. I had the opportunity to be in Israel on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is a time to honor the memories of the millions of Jews that were tortured and brutally murdered and mostly wiped out by the wicked, vicious and evil Nazis.

Since I was in elementary school, I always observed Yom HaShoah and had many tekasim (ceremonies) in honor of Yom HaShoah. But being in America for Yom HaShoa cannot even compare to what it’s like to being in Israel at this time.

I started off Yom HaShoah with a meaningful activity about Yom HaShoah with singing, a video, and candles. On Yom HaShoah there was an extremely powerful tekes (ceremony) put together by 11th graders at my school who had recently returned from a trip to Poland and Germany. And classes throughout the day consisted of many different Holocaust stories, including a couple of teachers who have parents that survived the war.

I was extremely fortunate to be able to hear a survivor speak. Dov Landau managed to escape from hell and come out alive. Not only that, but he was such a happy, strong, inspiring man. I cannot even grasp how he is able to do that after being in hell. But there are not many survivors left, and, unfortunately, soon there will not be any left. It will be our job to spread their stories and strength like Dov Landau’s. At the end of him telling his story, he rolled up his sleeve and we saw a number. Following that, he lifted up that arm proud and high. Dov Landau, and others like him, inspire, and continue to inspire, many, many Jews every day.

The most powerful thing was the siren. A siren that lasted a relatively short 120 seconds but felt like a lifetime. A siren in which you remember every single one of the Jews that perished in the Holocaust. In America, my schools had always told us about the siren that sounded in the morning in Israel in order to remember all the Jews that were killed, but I had never experienced it until this year, and I would never have thought that it would be as powerful as it was. There are not many words to describe it until you have actually experience it here at home in Israel.

Israel is the place that Jews in Europe dreamed to survive and be able to go to. They were in Europe being tortured and brutally murdered just for being who they were. All they wanted was to be in a place where that wouldn’t happen. A place that they would one day be able to have as their own state. A place where they could be proud and not ashamed of who they were. A place and a country where they are free. A place where they are accepted. A place to call home. A place that is still to this day exactly that. A place that is called Israel. A place that I am fortunate enough to be able to call my home.