Israeli Holocaust Remembrance as a National Exception


By: Yarden

I do not believe that there are enough words to describe what happened during the Second World War. In the first place of course with the Jewish community throughout Europe, but also to people with a handicap, persons who were judged on their sexuality and unfortunately many more.

Though what I would like to share is my view on Holocaust remembrance in modern Israel since this is a different experience for me than I am used to, in The Netherlands. For me, remembering the Holocaust is about commemorating the happenings in and around the Second World War. We organize an official flower ceremony and hold two minutes of silence to think about what happened. The following day, we celebrate Liberation Day and host national ceremonies and parties to celebrate our freedom and liberty; we try to cast a little bit happiness and light over the darkness.

In Israel however, the feeling of Holocaust remembrance is different.


Maybe it is because a great part of this society has a shared history through the Holocaust. Maybe it is because we told ourselves never to forget this. Or perhaps it is even because we feel that it is our duty to remember it the most from everyone. I do not actually now. All I feel is that it is a very burdened day and that the state makes sure that everyone grasps this sensation; personally connected to the Holocaust or not.

What however strikes me from time to time is the manner in which we are, rightly so, commemorating the Second World War every year, but neglect to reflect on other matters that happened in our history in the same magnitude. The Nakba (i.e. the forced mass-migration of Palestinians in 1948) is also an immense and burdened day for a big part of the Israeli society, yet we hardly never talk or reflect about this.

Israel is not different from many countries in this perspective: Dutch behaviour towards their former colonies in the East Indies, France and their colonial influence over West-Africa, Americans regarding American Indians and unfortunately many more. I guess it is common to struggle with the black pages of nations’ history but this is by no means a legitimization for the total absence of its recollection.

Israeli society nowadays is a mixed array of ethnicities which should be celebrated instead of marginalized. Just as remembering The Holocaust is important to many Jewish citizens of Israel, there are further happenings in history that matter greatly to others in our shared society. By no means do I want to compare one event to another; you cannot compare suffering with suffering. All that I am hoping for on this day is that we honour others’ suffering as equal to ours in Israel whether they are African, Asian or Arab, since I believe that a shared society starts with respect to our shared history, both bad and good.


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