This is my way of personally observing Holocaust Memorial Day. My vow of silence will be written in words, each thought coming straight from my heart on such a sad, yet necessary day.

As an Oleh Chadasha (new immigrant) from Texas living in Tel Aviv, I was unsure of how to react toward Holocaust Memorial Day. And as the eve of Yom HaShoah began, I left work as I would have on any other day. By the time I arrived home the entire city of Tel Aviv had already shut down in preparation for Yom HaShoah.

Tel Aviv, a city which never sleeps, closed all of its doors for Holocaust Memorial Day. A country which was built by Holocaust survivors themselves, their children and now their grandchildren, took a 24 hour vow of silence to remember the 6,000,000 + victims who lost their lives during one of the most horrible wars known to mankind.

As an American living in Israel, I was unsure of how to react to Holocaust Memorial Day at first. I didn’t know if I should sit silently in the dark with my thoughts, or if I should just go about my nightly tasks as usual. Without thinking though, I naturally understood what I needed to do on the night of Yom HaShoah…

My boyfriend came home from work and turned on the television. A memorial in honor of the Holocaust appeared on the screen before us and we ate dinner with the sound of sad Hebrew music playing in the background.

After finishing our meal, my boyfriend suggested that we watch The Pianist. Afterall, Holocaust movies were being featured on television throughout the entire night on every channel. I even found out that the sports channels had been turned off in respect for Yom HaShoah.

Shortly after starting The Pianist, I was overcome with a strange feeling. I felt horribly depressed and couldn’t bear to watch the movie after only 30 minutes. I told my boyfriend to turn it off and he responded that I should keep watching it in order to remember… and so I did.

My eyes were glued to the television for the remaining two hours. Although I didn’t want to, I watched the The Pianist in its entirety. And then it hit me – I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about the Holocaust.

This is what happened the next morning: I woke up at 7am to hit the gym before work. Usually the gym is filled with loud hip-hop music. Today was different though – Holocaust remembrance songs were playing in the gym, very quietly. Yes, even the gyms in Israel have a way of remembering the Holocaust. I was truly amazed.

About an hour after I arrived to work, a siren was heard throughout the entire country in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day. Everyone at work stood up and tilted their heads down as the siren sounded. Pictures relating to Yom HaShoah were posted across all of the social media websites and signs and billboards lined the streets of Tel Aviv mentioning that it was Holocaust Memorial Day.

After work, I came home and realized two things: The first thing was that I have never in my life lived in a country where everyone takes an entire day to remember the tragedies of the Holocaust. I found this to be truly amazing. The second thing I realized is that life should never be taken for granted. We are living in a time where it is safe to walk freely in the streets, without being targeted. We are able to breath fresh air without having to constantly fear death.

I looked around as I walked home from work and felt fortunate just to be where I am today. With that being said, I believe that these are the real reasons behind taking an entire day to observe Yom HaShoah. Not only to remember the tragedies of the past, but to also be thankful for the present and grateful for the future. Life is a beautiful thing and it should never be taken for granted, a lesson which I have truly learned since living in Israel.