“Where have all the flowers gone? … Where have all the soldiers gone?”
Each year on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), I walk over to the WIZO Parents’ Home, located next door to WIZO’s (Women’s International Zionist Organization) Tel Aviv headquarters, to photograph a very emotional event, the “Flower for a Survivor” (Perach La’nitzol) project.
As part of the project, IDF officers and soldiers visit the homes of Holocaust survivors throughout Israel. During the visit the soldiers are exposed to the personal testimony of the survivors and give them a special certificate and a flower as a sign of the strong ties between the IDF and Holocaust survivors.
It is often said that the testimonies of the past are the cornerstone to the lessons of the future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the stories of Holocaust survival that are critical in the education of our next generation.
If “a picture is worth a thousand words”, the photos I was privileged to take of the dozens of IDF soldiers (both male and female) who came to the WIZO Parents’ Home to honor survivors of the Holocaust illustrates the mutual respect and high esteem that our young defenders of the State of Israel and the survivors of the Shoah have for each other. It is poignant to see the close connection between the two.
But this year will be different. Due to the coronavirus crisis, There will be no visits from soldiers with flowers. In fact, no visitors are allowed at all. In an interview published in the Ha’aretz newspaper last month, Yair Efrati, the director of WIZO’s Parents’ Home, spoke about how the building’s residents, who range in age from 75-105, are at very high risk of getting sick. Some activities have been canceled, such as choir and communal singing. He also holds daily talks with the residents and staff to update them on the new instructions. “The residents are accepting the situation with full understanding,” he said, “because they realize that something like this could lead to disaster.”
Riki Cohen, Chairperson of the WIZO Parents’ Home said, “Grateful families thank us every day for the exemplary care and attention we extend to our residents, and have confidence in our strict practices to keep their loved ones healthy in these uncertain times of coronavirus and for that all the credit must go to our devoted staff and caregivers.”
Sadly, this year I will not be able to go to the WIZO Parents’ Home on Yom Hashoa to photograph IDF soldiers as they visit our dear seniors, present them with flowers, and listen intently as they hear their personal Holocaust stories. But I will be thinking about them.
Where have all the soldiers with flowers gone? Let’s pray they will be back very soon.