Mira Neshama Weil

The Siren

Jerusalem during the two-minute siren that sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 18, 2023. Photo source: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Jerusalem during the two-minute siren that sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 18, 2023. Photo source: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yom HaShoah 2023

It rang at 10 o’clock in the morning, like every year, on the day of Yom HaShoah.

I was folding the laundry;

We stop immediately.

We get up from the computer, we go outside if we are in a shop, we stop in the middle of checkout, of a meeting, of a phone conversation.

We get out of the car in the middle of the street, on the highway

We stand upright, without moving, often with our eyes closed.

Just a minute.

A whole one. It’s very short, and it’s endless.

The siren, she is our open door to the abyss

She is the call to remembrance, to getting in touch with pain, death,

She is our encounter with the inconsolable.

For a minute it rings, strident, loud, in our ears,

It disturbs the eardrum, as if to remind us to be present, just a minute.

Given the extremely short attention span we have these days, a minute is fine; and that is surely too long for many.

But it holds us, reminds us to stay present, brings us back to intention:

Why are we here, why did we stop in the midst of our lives, and why do we continue to do so, standing for a minute, year after year, since 1948?

I try to connect to the images in my mind’s eyes as fast as I can, so I can connect with them.

  I think of the testimonies I know, the ones I read, the ones I heard, from the mouths of witnesses, or their children:

Babies thrown in the air for a shooting contest

A baby used to play football, under the eyes of his mother.

Babies thrown into a pen of hungry dogs.

Parents who couldn’t say goodbye;

Those who were severed away from their husband, their father, their child, 

and whom they saw in the smoke of the sky a few minutes later.


Those who came back and were not believed.

Those who returned and the villagers shot them 

Those who came back and no one wanted to hear.

Those who were spat on when they knocked on the door of their old house 

Those who came back and ended up committing suicide.

Those who came back and were never able to have a child.

Those who waited not knowing if he or she would return.

Those from whom everything was snatched in a few minutes.

Those who have been tortured.

Those who have been the objects of medical experiments.

The rapes, and things I can’t even imagine

The beatings, the insults, and a daily level of violence I can’t fathom

Death in front of your eyes every instant

The mockeries;

The Sadism.


The stacks of bodies

Digging other people’s graves.

Teeth pulled out

Stacking corpses in the ovens

Those who hid in forests, cellars, attics, convents

Those who have been undressed, shaved, tattooed, mocked, insulted, harassed, beaten, until they lost consciousness, or their minds

Those who were denounced

Those who were forced to convert

Those who were protected

Those who were buried still alive

Those who were made to bury others

Those who were made to walk in the forest until they fell

Those who were shot under the trees, in the squares, at home

In the fields

The pious women whose vaginas were searched for jewelry

Or just to humiliate them in front of everyone

Those who have lost their words

Those who couldn’t talk about anything else

Those who threw themselves on barbed wire

Those who fled through the window

Those who never wanted to live again

Those who continued to plan, fifty years later, how they would flee, “if they returned”

Those who keep chewing the pain, the guilt, the fear

Until the second, to the third generation

Those who have returned and hear negationist speeches on TV

Those who survived and sixty years later are alone in the world

Those who found themselves the sole survivor of a family,

Or a village

Those who lost their only surviving sibling in an attack in Israel

Those who couldn’t say goodbye

Those who stayed alive to witness the resurgence of anti-Semitism down the street

The desecrations of graves

The insults on the walls of synagogues, universities

The ‘Heil, Hitlesr’ in your face, on your shop, your car, your window

Yesterday a jewish kid in the United States came home with a swastika drawn with a knife on his back

Even today many wish the death of all of those 

Today more than ever we must stand up

I speak of my people, and of a cataclysm unprecedented in human history,

Because of its industrial dimension, because of of its geographical breadth 

We are not alone.

 Rwanda, Bosnia, Serbia, Siberia. China. And so many others.

What humans can do to humans.

But today I stand up for my people.

For those who died and those who came back

For those who can never come back

For those who have never forgiven god

And who turned their back on their prayer book

I’m not saying ‘never again, because it would be too naïve’. Just look around.

I am not say anything.

I am just standing. I honor, I receive.

I connect to all those souls who died in pain

And those who survived

and I show them where I am today.

I stand, in the land of Israel,

The motherland of their diaspora that the United Nations decided to give back to the Jewish People after the great massacre.

Next week, this State will be 75 years old.

This is the amount of  time the Temples lasted a few millennia ago. Twice.

 The first, then the second Temple, finally destroyed, the country conquered, the Jews exiled. For two thousand years.

Our tradition says we might be the ones who caused our own loss.  Because of “sinat hinam”, gratuitous hatred, ill-will towards each other.

Next week, Israel will be 75 years old.

Those on the right hate those on the left, the chiloni curse the charedi, who spit on them and on the states. Some rulers are corrupt, and some among us wish the death of others

And all the while, rockets are being fired north, south, as Iran, it is said, prepares a concerted attack from all sides, including from within.

Today is Yom Ha Shoah.

Remembrance is much more than a “duty of memory”.

Remembering is a wake up call.

Remembering why we are here, and remembering that nothing, but nothing, is to be taken for granted.

Especially having a country.

The siren stops.

I stand, on the land of Israel, the motherland of their diaspora that the Nations decided to give back to the Jews after the great massacre.

That was seventy-five years ago.

We have a great responsibility.

Let’s stand up.

About the Author
Rabbah Dr. Mira Neshama Weil is a Scholar and Teacher of Jewish Spirituality and Meditation. She received her Doctorate in Sociology of Religion from the Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and her certificate of “Jewish Mindfulness Teacher” from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She learned Torah at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Studies and received smikha from Orthodox Rabbi Pr. Daniel Sperber at Beit Midrash Ha’ El in Jerusalem. She teaches Torah and Jewish Meditation with Akadem, Applied Jewish Spirituality, Or Ha Lev, Pardes, Moishe House Europe and at various institutions internationally.
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