From my earliest memories, I was raised with a deep love and appreciation for the roots of my Christian faith, the Bible and the Jewish people. One of my earliest memories is being taken outside on a deep, clear and starry night and being held in my mother’s arms and being taught about Abraham and G-d’s promise that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
As I grew older, I learned things from a more academic standpoint in the connection between Christianity and Jewish roots in the Old and New Testaments. I was also exposed to the learning about the history of the Jewish people and the modern state of Israel.
Leaving theology behind, when I reached my mid-teens, I first experienced something that myself and my friends will forget. Our first, and the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. None of us knew what to expect, and what the eventual affect it would have. We arrived, and a video player was set up. What I never forgot was the minute the lecturer and Holocaust survivor asked if there were any questions about the Holocaust itself, an intrusive, abrasive strident voice cut through the air: “What about the Israelis and the Palestinians?!” Very calmly, the lecturer replied that it was another topic, and asked again if there were any questions about the Holocaust. There were none. The lecturer, a lady who had survived the camps and was saved by Kinder Transport,, shared her own story. Then came the images on the screen.
An aside here, on images. When I was 7, I discovered a book about the Holocaust, and although I didn’t understand things like “Weimar Republic” and “saturated inflation”, I will never forget an image of a Jewish victim of experimental torture in an air pressure laboratory. I was absolutely horrified as a child. I slammed the book shut. I felt bewilderment at the capabilities of adults to carry out such things.
Years ago, British actress Kate Winslet won her Oscar for a film involving the Nuremberg Trials. She once said in an interview: “Once you see those images of the camps, the Nazi atrocities, you can’t un-see them. Once you see the footage, you can’t un-see that, too. The images and the footage remain forever in the backs of your eyes.”
It was an unusual way of putting it, but was incredibly accurate. I have seen movies about the Holocaust and documentaries…seen images…footage too…but I have never, ever forgotten that man I saw when I was 7. I will never forget him. I don’t even know his name.
There is a theory that children should be exposed to these things early, before constant violence on television and films dulls the impact of the horror and lasting impression on their minds. I don’t know if this theory is correct, but I know the early impact it had on me.
However, in terms of footage, I myself and my friends had never seen it before. It was truly terrible. We sat, horrified and silent, completely numb. The ldy explained which factories were involved in the Holocaust, and to my horror, I realised my own hearing aids in my ears were from one of those same companies. I shrank down in my chair, in horror and disgust, wanting to rip them out of my head.
After 4pm, after footage and images from the Nazi atrocities, interspersed with talking from our lecturer, we stumbled out into the light of the playground, as it was all over.
There was complete silence. Usually, the 6th Formers like me, would have to escape the loudness of the other younger students, and would seek solace to revise in empty hallways and unlocked classrooms to get away from the swarming crowd during breaks. But today….you couldn’t hear a thing. We had never seen what we had just seen in our lives. As it was the end of the day, we dazedly filed into the silent canteen, white, numb and unspeaking. We then just sat in a daze, huddled together, crowded at a small table…not quite knowing what to do or say….nobody wanting to break the silence. We left the food getting stone cold, as we sat there for I don’t know how long….heads bowed, whiyte faces, heads on folded hands on the table, hands folded and staring into space. Then suddenly the silence was broken by somebody who piped up, and like a dam which had burst, we all started to tell out about what we had al just seen, the horror, the shame, the despair, and the now heavyly furious inspired desire to DO SOMETHING if they ever saw such injustice again.
When I was 14, and again, when I was 16, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Israel. The historical, religious and cultural impression it made on me still resonates today. The stereotypes I had heard were dashed, the multiculturalism, the freedom, the wonderful contribution of cultures from every country united together in one place out there is incredible. The political accusations of mistreatment of minorities, and apartheid were shown before my eyes as an observer, to be ridiculous and totally bizarre. It was a land soaked in history, culture and promise. It leaves an instructive impression on you, and you will always yearn to go back, because you always leave a part of you behind.
I will always love Israel, and its people, and Gdwilling, I will go back soon!