At 10:00, the siren rang out in Israel commemorating Yom Hashoah. This year I have been thinking about Yom Hashoah for three days. I spent yesterday listening to Gunter Demning, the artist behind the Stoppelstein (Memorial Stone) Project at Hebrew University. In the evening, I was at a commemoration for the children of Terezin and in the audience of the play “I never saw another butterfly,” directed by Malka Abrams. Despite all this, the siren caught me by surprise, as it does every year.
This year it sounded different. Every year I spend the two minutes thinking about the pain and suffering of the survivors of the Holocaust, of the people I know who have faded blue tattoos on what is today wrinkled skin. Every year, I think of the atrocities of the camps, of the stolen childhoods and of the horror. Every year, it is about others.
Today I saw a different picture. I saw my grandparents at the airport in Frankfurt in March 1939, bidding farewell to their only son who was 16-years-old. I saw the love and sorrow in their eyes as they accompanied him by train to the airport, and stood by him as he checked into the plane. I saw their tension and concern lest there by a last minute hurdle that would prevent his departure. I saw their love and their sadness when he made his way onto the plane. And I saw how they made their way back to Offenbach discussing with each other their future plans to join their only son, my father, in England.
And I see another picture — a picture which transcends time. I saw my grandparents smiling at their son as he got married in England in 1958. I see their pride as they watch him bring up his four daughters in Australia and work to strengthen the Jewish community in Australia and to support Israel. I see their happiness as their four granddaughters settle in Israel and create their own families, and then I see their beaming faces as they, together with my parents, watch their grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue in their footsteps.
This year, the siren was a siren of hope.