Shahar Azani
Veteran Israeli Diplomat. Speaker. Author. JBS Senior Vice President. Jewish.

Breathing life into “never again”

A few days ago, on January 27th, the world came together as #WeRemembered the #Holocaust and its millions of victims. #NeverAgain we all said and repeated. But how often do we really move from knee-jerk commemoration to actually #thinking about the Holocaust and its meaning?

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp—as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, all join together in remembrance of all that is evil. The ultimate evil. On this day, the UN urges every member state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust as well as millions of other victims of Nazism, and encourages them to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides. “Never Again”!

Our world today is filled with disagreements, controversies and disharmony. It seems more and more difficult for opposing parties to reach agreement and find common ground, be it in national politics or in the realm of international diplomacy. However, the term “Never Again” seems to be surviving our society’s current trend of slaughtering sacred cows and is perceived to be almost unanimously accepted as a symbol of higher moral values, both within the Jewish community and beyond.

But is it? What does “Never Again” mean today, beyond its poetic resonance and existence as a social media hashtag?!

The United Nations itself, whose resolution a few years ago gave birth to this day of remembrance, is a hall of hypocrisy, where justice can find no seat at the table. The UN discriminates continuously against the State of Israel, singling out the Jewish state for criticism, while keeping silent in the face of cruel atrocities occurring every day all around us. It watched while hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians were slaughtered by the Syrian regime, and did nothing. It keeps quiet in the face of a murderous Iranian theocracy, tormenting its own citizens, and turns a blind eye to injustices around the world. The UN has been taken hostage by a gang of rogue regimes and abominable dictatorships, whose very existence contradicts the organization’s raison d’etre, envisioned as an olive branch but turned into a battle-axe.

And so, we must ask ourselves: what is the true meaning of NEVER AGAIN today? What does it mean to us? Has it become too hollow an expression, diluted to emptiness by consensus, meaning all and absolutely nothing at the same time??!!

Reality TV meets Reality 

Siggy Flicker is an Israeli-born American relationship specialist, author and a renowned television personality, who until recently was part of BRAVO’s TV series: The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Siggy is also the daughter of Holocaust survivor and scholar, Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, the former Director of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. After casual references to the Holocaust were made during the show, Siggy decided to have none of it and turned this reality TV moment into a reality-check for us all: have we really normalized and trivialized evil to such a point, where it’s ultimate manifestation became an anecdotal point in a meaningless gossip?!

Siggy chose to take the high moral road and instead of bowing her head to keep her spot on the show, she courageously turned her back and left, making a conscious choice to educate and empower public discourse for the better. Her clarion voice echoing to long distances and forcing many to take a good look in the mirror.

Siggy Flicker In Her Words

The Eichmann Trial on Stage

Maya Buenos is a Jewish and Israeli theatre creator, writer and director, who found her own unique way to seek meaning, through the power of the stage. Her quest after the deep meaning of “Never Again” led her to 1961. In April 1961, Adolf Eichmann’s trial began in Israel at the Gerard Behar Theatre in Jerusalem (or ‘The People’s House’ as it was called then). The stage of the Eichmann trial was designed especially for the occasion. In her words: “It was meant to tell its own story, and not necessarily to be loyal to the court’s room setting. For example, the glass cage (a theatrical monument for itself) was positioned across from the witness stand in order to create a direct eye contact between the victim and the murder“.

Buenos’ play “E Syndrome, a Concert in Three Acts” was born from the complicated questions the trial and its theatrical framing raised. The name of the play also relates to the neurological model developed by Prof. Itzhak Fried, an Israeli brain researcher. The model describes the process by which a normal person becomes a mass murderer. According to Fried, 70% of the human society might have the symptoms of the E Syndrome. To seek for an answer, Buenos took the theatrical elements of the trial one step forward. Thus, on an exposed and revealed concert stage appear a choir and a string trio who tell the story of the Eichmann trial through singing, music and rhythm. The tension between the musical aesthetic and the severe testimonies poses questions in regard to pleasure derived from horror, the numbing of senses and issues of herd mentality – a question targeted at the audience watching. Through the music we ask how a civilized society transforms into an extermination machine? This play might not provide for the answer, but it makes one seriously consider the question. And isn’t that we need today? A grain of thought? A touch of reflection?!

Maya Buenos’ Play: The Music Behind the Eichmann Trial

Evil is Evil is Evil 

Eventually, it is up to each and every one of us to breathe life into Never Again, and not allow it to diminish in our hearts, its significance disappearing into oblivion. Upholding this crucial value, an integral part of our humanity, is not only up to world leaders and international organizations, but a moral obligation for each and every one of us, an obligation to ourselves, our children and to all future generations.

Evil must be recognized as such, acknowledged and countered. Flicker and Buenos have both given meaning to Never Again & so should we.

Never Again!

About the Author
Veteran Israeli Diplomat. Speaker, Author, JBS Senior Vice President. Formerly Israel's Consul for Media Affairs in NY and L.A.. Thankful for every day. Hopeful for the future.