Gesher Alumnus, Mayor Gil Livne, Gives Speech on Yom Hashoah
By: Gil Livne, Mayor of Shoham
April 24, 2017
The journey of our people – the Jewish people – has been long and tortuous, fraught with challenges and difficulties, a long journey that has passed through years of slavery to freedom, from holocaust to rebirth, from wandering to settling a home and country.
Almost eighty years have passed since the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, which came shortly after, will soon mark its 70th anniversary.
On these days, between the Festival of Freedom, the Memorial Day for the Fallen of the Holocaust, the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers, and until Independence Day, I ask myself – and in fact all of us – difficult questions.
After after six million Jews were murdered in World War II the Jews were on the brink of distinction. Yet out of the inferno and the shock arose the State of Israel, which continues to grow and develop from year to year.
Diaspora Jewry, on the other hand, has been struggling for years with assimilation, a threat that endangers its very existence. Within two or three generations, the Jews of the world, including the Jews of the US (ironically six million) are expected to shrink in half, not because of adversity or by the hands of an enemy, but out of choice.
Each year we repeat with astonishment stories of how during the Holocaust the Jews fought not only for a slice of bread or for places to hide, but also for lighting Shabbat candles; They guarded not only their children but also Torah scrolls; They struggled to live and to preserve their Jewishness.
The late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, spoke about his family during the ceremony “Every man has a name” on Holocaust Martyrs ‘and Heroes’ Remembrance Day in 2011:
“In memory of the members of my family who were massacred with their 2,060 community members in the town of Vishneiba in August 1942 by the Nazis and their local henchmen who rounded up the inhabitants of a synagogue made of wood and brutally burned them to their deaths. My grandmother Rivka Melzer, and my grandfather Zvi Melzer – my teacher and rabbi, as we were saying our goodbyes at the train station on my way to Eretz Israel, said three words to me: ‘Be a Jew!’ ”
And now, seventy years later, the future generation of the Jewish people, not out of persecution or manifestations of anti-Semitism, but out of choice, are disengaging from their roots, heritage and history.
We frequently say that there will never be a second holocaust because we have a strong and independent state with resources and a powerful army that can save any Jew at any time and any place.
But even an army, strong as ours may be, cannot save a young Jew who does not remember nor is not aware of his heritage.
How do you save someone who might not want to be saved?
And perhaps this is the most penetrating question of all – how much do we care to be Jews in this millennium, when only eighty years ago Jews did everything in their power to preserve their lives and their Jewish identity?
Judaism is not just a religion. It’s a historical narrative, a national diary with roots planted thousands of years ago. Its foundations in our time are the Holocaust and the Zionist enterprise, and to this, I hope, we all connect.
Israeli Jewish Zionist identity is the basis of our strong relationship with Diaspora Jewry. They are there for us, and we have to be there for them.
Our role as a nation living in the State of Israel, in the home of the Jewish people, is to bring Diaspora Jewry closer, to embrace, to connect, to bridge the gaps – and, above all, to be a model of moral esteem and national pride.
I believe that in memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust, as well as the memory of the tens of thousands of martyrs who have since been killed in the wars to ensure Israel’s independence, we have a moral duty- a personal and national responsibility to the continuity of the Jewish chain.
And in two words – be Jews!
May the memory of the victims of the Holocaust be blessed.