Why I didn’t stand for the siren
The cynical use of the Holocaust to politicize our children and society finally forced me to say, ‘to hell with it.’
This year, when Education Minister Shay Piron decided to teach my children about the Holocaust, I didn’t stand for the memorial siren for the first time in my life. The day after my oldest son, 6 1/2 years old, asked me, “Mom, why did they kill so many of us during the Second World War?” and a few hours before my middle son, 4 1/2 years old, returned from preschool with similar questions, I paused as usual during the siren and looked out the window of my home at the cars stopped in an orderly line and the people standing next to them. And then I said, “The hell with you,” and continued cleaning the kitchen.
To hell with the education system, which has for decades used remembrance of the Holocaust to create obedient citizens and nurture unbridled militarism in them. I remember 23 years ago, when I was a student in an exclusive high school in Ramat Hasharon, gazing in wonder at the battalions of my classmates returning from Poland, who pronounced, with various levels of antipathy, “Never again. We must be strong. Those damn Poles. Those damn Germans. We need a strong army.”
How many classes of high school students have undergone this kitschy nationalistic indoctrination and returned with the same conclusion? By introducing Holocaust education in kindergarten, Piron didn’t invent anything — he just lowered the age when the indoctrination starts and contributed a few more traumas to our children.
To hell with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who for years has used the Holocaust in the most cynical fashion to slander the latest bitter enemy, whether it’s Iran or Hamas, but refuses to accept Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ historic statement of identification, claiming it’s no more than a political trick. To hell with all the politicians who have used the memory of the Holocaust to justify denying rights to another people for decades.
To hell with Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who on Holocaust Remembrance Day two years ago gave a fiery speech against anti-Semitism but still does not understand the relationship between it and throwing innocent people into jail for an unlimited time, including women and children, only because of the color of their skin.
The hell with Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who uses this day as a photo op and an opportunity for public relations at the expense of survivors. To hell with all those who make sure we will never leave the internal ghetto, in which the more vicious we are to the disinherited of our society, the better we can convince ourselves we are always the victim. To hell with the persecution of human rights organizations. To hell even with President Shimon Peres, who is careful to say all the right words in favor of peace and against racism, while the country he represents acts in exactly the opposite way.
And to hell with all the “shaming” pictures of the ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews who — Go forbid — do not stand at attention during the siren and even dare to play soccer or have a barbecue on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. As if any of us signed a contract obligating us to mourn during one particular national minute.
My mother is a Holocaust survivor. I don’t need the 27th of Nisan to remember the stories of her childhood, which ended at age 5, of her grandfather who died in the snow, or of the ghetto and the typhus. I don’t need their siren to know what I learned from the Holocaust and what I will teach my children: That racism and intolerance are dangerous viruses that can infect every democracy and even destroy it, and we need to be careful about every leader who demonizes a different ethnic minority.
So here, write it down: I too did not stand on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Instead, a little later, I called my mother and asked how she was. That was my minute of silence.