This morning at 10am there will be an official minute of silence marked by sirens across Israel.
Surely it is not enough. Even a whole day of ceremonies, official, communal and in schools around the country is not enough.
Indeed one friend on Facebook asked this very question yesterday, with the implied conclusion that having a day in the year to remember Holocaust victims is actually to limit their memory, and after all, what does standing for a minute’s silence do for them in the world to come.
How then shall we meet this challenge of not restricting this to the 1/365 of our entire year.
There are many ways of using today as a call to action, whether it is to endevaour to volunteer for survivors, make sure to find a organisation and make a donation (in a similar fashion as we commit to do during the Yizkor pray we make during the Festivals). Indeed those in public life or politicians can lobby for better treatment for survivors or more investment in Holocaust education.
Jews and non-Jews alike can battle anti-Semitism, whether it is in our workplace or on the street and indeed we can all dedicate some prayers for those who were murdered and those who survived.
I want to focus on one small element that I have personally experienced in the last year, and have become more sensitive to as a result.
During the the last year I have been called on several occasions Nazi. I was called this mainly by young boys in my own home town of Beit Shemesh and undoubtedly this was connected to the heated debate around the election campaign.
As much as anything else this is a serious education failing. This is not just a failure by those in direct contact with them, but a wider societal failure. These school students have received a very troubling educational message, that a) its OK to glibly use such harmful terminology and b) use it against their fellow Jew.
It goes without saying that this is a disgraceful disrespect to those who suffered during the Shoah and of course the many who continue to suffer the pain to this very day. It is almost banal to say that Nazi Germany and their helpers did not distinguish between Jew and Jew, but there is a deeper problem around the daily use of Holocaust terminology and imagery.
This is no longer just about the Holocaust, but what damage is being created in Israeli society by the slope we are sliding down to the lowest common denominator of how we relate to one another.
The use of Holocaust and other hate imagery has grown over the years, and whilst it is wrong in the context of a football match or in a traffic jam, it takes on a deeper and more problematic meaning when used in political or cultural discourse.
Over the last year there have been an increasing amount of this type of expression, whether through imagery or words.
The Knesset, long since a bastion of bad language, has seen new heights this past year as legislation on army conscription and budget cuts for yeshivot have passed.
In certain demonstrations we have seen children dressed up in sack cloth and yellow stars in protest at the policies of the Israeli government and as recently as last week the Satmar Rebbe in NY compared how the Jews were saved in the Holocaust to the fact that they will also be saved from the evil decrees of the Israeli government. There is a concerted campaign against Haredim joining the army, backed by hard-core extremists using highly anti-semitic and incendiary imagery and a shul was physically destroyed as a result of an intra-communal dispute.
Whilst I am sure that the Iranian threat to Israel is real, I would be very hesitant if I were the Prime Minister’s speech writer using the Nazi trump card constantly comparing Iran to Germany in the Second World War, and I was always very uncomfortable with the use of Nazi terminology used by Prof Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Left and right have used Nazi or fascist terms when it has suited them with policemen and solders having often been called Nazi’s by extremist settlers or hard-left activists.
Hate language is not limited to Nazi imagery and is not limited to one side of the political or social discourse. The more it is used the cheaper it becomes. Each time we hear it, another memory is spoiled, another soul is disturbed in the next life.
Of no less importance, what type of future are we creating? It is so much easier to destroy than to build. The challenge of our generation and the generations after the Holocaust is to build and re-build.
We have built a State that can physically protect us, we have re-built a world of Torah study lost during the Shoah, we have built a successful economy with world beating technology and scientists worthy of Nobel prizes.
The time has come to start building a society together, with communities capable of taking responsibility for themselves, and able to live at peace with one another. It is time for us to stop using hate language and imagery in our day to day lives, not only because it debases the memory of those who lost theirs, but also because it reduces dramatically our ability to heal obvious open wounds in our society.
If we only we stand for the minute’s silence let’s make sure that it is not wasted, and that we take heed former Chief Rabbi Rav Yisrael Meir Lau’s message – “We always knew how to die together, the time has come for us to know also how to live together.”