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Nation of Israel thanks Holocaust survivors


JERUSALEM (April 23) - Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day began last night at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem with a call to make amends to survivors of the genocide who 50 years ago helped create the state.

"This is the proper moment to express to them the gratitude of the entire nation," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, before six survivors lit memorial torches for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Netanyahu acknowledged the lack of recognition on the part of native Israelis for the heroism shown by Holocaust survivors in the first years of the state. He thanked them for their contribution to the nation.

"We native born and veteran Israelis did not always understand and appreciate the enormity of their ordeal, and the immensity of the heroism that was again demanded of them on arrival here," said Netanyahu, in a strongly worded opening speech. "This is the proper moment to put into words the appreciation of the entire nation. By the very fact of them being here with us, and their work and their involvement in all areas of activity in the country, they and their children embody the victory of life over death, the victory of righteousness over evil.

"And more than anything else, they embody the victory of the Jewish people and the eternity of Israel, which rose from amidst the ashes of destruction to start from the beginning and to grow afresh from what was cut down and uprooted there." Netanyahu's speech departed from the prepared text, in which he specifically asked for forgiveness on the part of Israelis for the lack of understanding.

Holocaust Remembrance Day continued through today, marked by a two-minute siren at 10 a.m., immediately followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem. All places of entertainment will be closed throughout the day.

In keeping with this year's theme - the contribution of Holocaust survivors to the creation of the State of Israel and their integration into society - the prime minister heralded the contribution made by the 250,000 survivors who came to Israel after the Holocaust.

With their help, he said, "we have built up a beautiful and successful country, in which there are today nearly five million Jewish people. These people, the surviving remnant of the Jewish people, went from one struggle to another, from the war for survival to the war of rebirth.

"The effort of their own personal rehabilitation brought them face to face with an additional test of heroism - no less than the test of heroism of the battles and the camps. They asked for nothing, investing all their efforts and all their strength into establishing the State of Israel."

Last night's ceremony began with the national flag being lowered to half-mast, the six flames of remembrance lit by six survivors in the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza of Yad Vashem, and the Kaddish recited by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron.

In his address, President Ezer Weizman made an impassioned appeal for aliya, calling on Jews not to wait for times of trouble to move to Israel, but to come now. "There is no doubt," he said, "that a population of six, seven, eight million Jews would have a tremendous impact on the country's strength, economy, and culture."

Publikation: Samstag, 14. Dezember 2013

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