Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Holocaust Day: Robbed of our silence

I have just stood at the 10 AM remembrance for those who perished in the Holocaust. The sirens blared. But there was no silence to embrace them. There was no silence to embrace the memory of the dead. There was no silence to allow me to mourn with others, for a block away from my house, the heavy jackhammers and machinery kept pounding and drowned out even the sirens, and drowned out my silence.

I am so so angry. I feel robbed. I feel violated. I feel as though today something  changed.  I am terrified.  I am nauseated. If it were a car or two, I might understand.  But we are talking about a crew of (no doubt) dozens of people working simultaneously on a giant construction site adjacent to Beit HaNatziv and a local Tama 38 project on Ein Gedi Street, Jerusalem.  These projects are being built by Israel firms, with managers, foremen and supervisors.  Are they responsible?

This is one of the two most painful days in our country’s year.  But this is the first time I can remember having the ceremony smeared with apathy, ignorance and perhaps even hatred.  We have become a country of doers, but less “empathizers”. Who is REALLY responsible?  We are.  We are the ones who have, in the name of progress, encouraged the values of profit over respect.

How difficult is it to organize a few minutes of “cavod” (respect)?  How difficult is it to maintain a sacred tradition, which is shared by most in our country?  Will the same thing happen on Remembrance Day?  My guess is YES, unless someone takes notice, whether the project supervisors, the municipality, or the Prime Minister.

I have decided.  If it happens again, I will run screaming toward the building sites.  I will do everything in my power to stop them.  I will take pictures if I must.  Because at the end of the day it is not US who are being violated, but rather those who perished.  If such violations are allowed to continue with no mention or attempt to correct them, than we deserve to brew in our own gruel of hardness and cacophony, while the voices of deceased loved ones rise further, beyond the anger, to their eternal silence.

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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