Holocaust, Remembrance and Independence
Holocaust Day is Jewishness Day. In the cattle cars to Auschwitz, the western, assimilated Jews suffocated together with the extreme Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the East. When the doors of the cattle cars opened to the smoke rising from the chimney, the westerners understood that in this place, their medals of honor from World War I would not help, nor would their civic identity. The easterners understood that here, their religious identity would not be enough.
They took their names from them and turned them into numbers. They took their families, their honor, their clothing, their hair, their humanity. In the gas chambers, bare of any other identity, just one, final identity remained. Absolute and unifying – like death, itself. Their Jewish identity.
Memorial Day is Israeli-ness Day. Under the military headstones are buried devout seculars and tenacious religious Jews. They are from all sectors and faiths, Right and Left, kibbutzniks and settlers.
Their uniforms unified them. No enemy was able to differentiate between them. In the battlefield, all the identities in which they had garbed themselves lost their meaning. The debates and struggles melted away. Death – absolute and shared by all – unified them under the headstone with one shared identity: Israeli identity.
Thank G-d for Independence Day. Blessed is G-d, Who has enlivened us and brought us to this time. Our hearts broaden, how wondrous, how huge and amazing is this day. Yet, we are still trying to figure out how to fill the pits of emptiness that glare at us on Independence Day, pinching our hearts.
Independence Day will really happen when we learn to live and unite our two identities. And not to die with them.