I wrote this article eight years ago, yet it happened again today, as it does every year on Yom HaShoah. Nowhere else in the world is there such a respect for those who were sacrificed for freedom, as there is in Israel. Nowhere else in the world does insanely busy traffic come to a stop and people stand at attention, in silence. I share my experience with you out of great awe for the people of the Land of Israel.
An amazing thing happened today. A siren blew and the world stood still!
Today, Sunday, April 18, 2004, was Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. A siren blew and truly, the world here, in Israel, stopped. The normally frenzied hustle and bustle, tire screeching, horn honking traffic came to a serene silence to honor those who were lost at Hitler’s insanely evil behest.
For the twenty plus years I have been traveling to this beautiful land, I have heard stories about this day and what it was like. This was the first time that I would actually be in country on this day and I wanted to participate in this solemn moment. I wanted to see it, feel it and to be a part of it.
My friend, Linda, – a Second Generation Survivor – and I had discussed it many times. Having lost her entire family in the Holocaust, this day was extremely significant to her and, because of my love and care for her, I wanted to be a part of it in a feeble attempt to try to understand the longing for the lost.
“It is the most amazing thing,” she told me. “Every one and everything comes to a stop. Cars and buses pull to the side of the road and the drivers and passengers get out and stand at attention. Nothing moves. This day is not only important to me, but to all of us,” she continued. “You must experience it. Telling you about it is not enough.”
I knew she was right, ‘telling me would not be enough’. So, I watched the clock and just before the appointed time, I got into my car and drove down the mountain to a busy intersection that I was familiar with and moved with the traffic, putting the car window down just a bit so I would be sure to hear the siren she had told me about.
The light changed and traffic moved out as usual. I turned onto the busy street I drive so often, disappointed that there were not more cars traveling the street at that moment. I thought it would require a lot of traffic for me to really appreciate what was going to happen, and my curiosity really wanted to see and experience this moment. I did not realize that it was not the number of cars coming to a stop that would impact me, but the emotion of the moment and what it represented was what I was to experience.
I had gone only about a block, up a slight hill, when I heard the woeful sound of the siren right on time. I pulled the car to the curb and got out, standing to attention, just as she had instructed me to do. My eyes darted around as I saw others doing the same thing. Stopping. Getting out. Standing at attention. Engines were turned off. Car doors were left open as the occupants stood silently beside them. The siren continued to blow for two minutes – one hundred and twenty seconds. Everything and everyone stopped, suspending their lives for these two minutes of remembrance.
I saw an older man, attired in a simple undershirt and worn slacks who had been casually sitting on his balcony at a table, rise and stand at attention, displaying respect for the family members who had been lost. A beautiful young woman, her long dark hair blowing in the stiff breeze, stood by her car in a stance that indicated she had probably been military; her erect posture proof that this was not the first time she had stood at attention. Young and old; everyone stood for that brief two minutes as the siren continued to blow its call to attention, a reminder of the evil side of mankind.
Quiet was everywhere. Only the woeful sound of the siren was heard, piercing the silence created by generations lost.
Being from Oklahoma, I am very accustomed to tornado sirens blowing in the spring time, but I have never experienced anything like this. The sirens of Oklahoma cause us to rush home and seek shelter from impending danger. This siren, the woeful siren of Israel, caused us to stop and pay attention to what had already come and destroyed! This was a siren of mourning and remembrance. Was it to be a siren of warning, as well?
My eyes turned back at the busy intersection I had just come through. It was quiet. Nothing moved except the beautiful blue and white Israeli flag that was blowing in the wind with all of the gusto it could summons to show the world that Israel lives! Am Israel Chai! Israel lives! Tears came to my eyes as I watched that flag and I could only whisper a prayer, “Please, Lord, don’t let it ever happen again.”
“Happen again! Impossible!” you might say. But is it? Today, that beautiful blue and white flag that waves so proudly is a signal flapping in the faces of the enemies that surround this wonderful State and People that the devil did not win – that time. Oh, he tried. Six million beautiful, wonderful, smiling faces are gone. Professors. Musicians. Artists. Moms and Dads. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents. And, children. That’s right, one and one half million children were unmercifully killed. Why? Because they were guilty of being Jews.
“Happen again?” Yes, it definitely could happen again. World anti-Semitism is on a rise. But wait! Lets call it what it is. It is “anti-Jew” that is on the rise. A Semite is defined in my dictionary as “a member of any of a group of people of Southwest Asia chiefly represented now by the Jews and Arabs.” So, lets get this straight. The world isn’t rising up against the Arabs. The world loves the Arabs with their oil and their Omar Sharif’s and their airplane-pilot-homicide-bomber-terrorists! Let’s get it right! It isn’t “anti-Semitism” that is on the rise; it is “anti-Jew.”
“Why the Jew?” Well, lets see. Somewhere, I read they are God’s chosen people. I believe that is a promise made by God. They live in their own land – a land granted to them centuries ago by God. So then, it is the other Semites that would take that land from them and kill them? Yes, that is right, along with a great percentage of the world.
“How could it happen again?” Well, look around you. While all of the rest of the world is allowed to go after its terrorists, that same world condemns Israel for killing its terrorists. That same world blames Israel for having terrorists. In fact, the mantra goes something to the effect that Israel isn’t “nice enough” to these horrible killers so Israel caused it!
Yes, it could happen again – today. We – the Gentile world – the Christian Evangelical world are the ones that have the power to stop it and we must. We must lobby Washington; we must teach while we can; we must move instead of sitting; and, we must pray with a fervor as we have never prayed before for the Peace of Jerusalem and God’s protection over this Land and People.
For me, that siren was a call to attention. Just as the Oklahoma sirens warn me of impending danger, this siren sounded a clear warning that another Holocaust could well be on the horizon. It is up to me, and to the reader, to decide whether or not we will hear that siren and take the appropriate steps to do something about it this time, or will we stand back and do nothing?
A Siren blew today and the world stood still.