Yom HaShoah

Two minutes.

The sirens are wailing.

First swelling up slowly, then reaching their all-penetrating uncomfortable pitch.

The world seems to stand still. In that very same, almost breathtaking moment, the sun breaks through the clouds and shines onto the garland of small Israeli flags, which the janitor has hung on our building’s façade only the day before. They are flapping cheerfully in a summery breeze – creating the only sound in the air apart from the piercing sirens.

For two minutes, everyday life stops dead – commemorating six million dead people. It is Yom HaShoah, the day of commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel. Everyone freezes quietly on the spot. The street sweeper on the corner is leaning on his broom. A young man dragging a large suitcase covers his face with his hands. Two elderly men, who were rushing across the street a second ago, engaged in a loud conversation, came to a halt in the middle of the crosswalk. All the cars have stopped, the drivers got out of their seats and stand next to their vehicles with heads bowed. On a balcony of the neighboring house stands a mother with her child and the grandparents, eyes closed.

Two minutes.

The sirens are wailing.

It feels good to stand outside, to be with others, to share this moment. Not to be alone. To mourn together, to try and empathize with the desperation of the victims – and to celebrate the survivors, just like at the memorial service in the synagogue the night before, where a 94-year-old lady spoke about her deportation to the ghetto and her subsequent route through the camps of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Gers. About how she fought to stay alive, and the role of chance, which meant salvation for many, and death for so many more.

Two minutes.

The sirens are wailing.

A long, lamenting sound, a collective outcry about immeasurable suffering and horrific crimes. Never again … The howling creates goose bumps, touches the core, and pierces the soul. It makes you want to howl yourself, to cry out loud, knowing what was done to the Jews in the Holocaust – and what people still do to others around the world today. The list of atrocities is long, and can be viewed daily on the news.

„Only two minutes!“

Hurry now, switch the TV off, the train is leaving soon! A big gulp of to-go-coffee. Breakfast? No time for that! Down the stairs, if only you won’t have to wait for the next subway. On the train – quickly scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed, the latest tweets, the Instagram stories. Dropping the boy off to kindergarten on the run. Hurry up, the meeting starts, what’s the name of the new colleague yet again? Fast, print the minutes, the color cartridge is empty, insert a new one? No time for that. The important letter to your bank? Forgotten at home yet again. The long-planned visit to your sickly parents? Postponed for the third time. I’m sorry mum, I really don’t have time for that! Not even for two minutes.

How urgently we’d need them! Every day we’d need to pause and silence ourselves for just a short moment. All the hustle and bustle surrounding us in everyday life, not only here in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps. Every day we’d need a few minutes to settle down, to make ourselves aware that we humans are in this together, that we all are one. To understand how easy to deal with our little worries actually are, while there are people around us who are dealing with completely different things. Who suffer, from exclusion, humiliation, deprivation of rights, persecution, murder. From indifference, contempt, and hatred.

Every day we’d need to ask ourselves how we can prevent such suffering. Not just here, among the survivors of the Shoah and their descendants, or among the Israelis. All of us, all the people around the world, should stop to think. We should fight, every day, to make “never again” a reality, anywhere in the world. We should be more courageous, more open-minded, more willing to share. We need a better sense of community, so that it will finally stop to matter whether one is a Jew, or a Christian, or Muslim, or Hindu. Whether one is black or white, whether one comes from Mali or from Israel, or from Syria, whether he is a man or a woman. So that we can see each other as human beings, and stop judging each other by the name of our Lord or by the color of our skin. Then, the suffering of the victims will have made a difference. Then, our worries will become easier.

Never again. Not only for two minutes.

About the Author
German born Martina Steinhauser is a freelance business consultant for cross-cultural management and communications. Previously, she held various international positions in business development and marketing in the hospitality and the security printing industries. Martina is passionate about writing, traveling, and Israel.
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