Remembering the Past, Shaping the Future

"Six million of the Jewish people were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Not everyone has learned the lesson, unfortunately," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last year at the Yom HaShoah ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which was broadcast, like it is every year here, on Israeli TV. 

As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles due to old age, there is an imminent need to share their testimony, especially as Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinijahd's declaration of "wiping Israel off the map" continues to be ignored by the world community. The need to recall their stories whether in person or via visual presentation, as well as learning about all the specific details of the Holocaust, is urgent. Many of these survivors still travel to schools worldwide to educate as a means to combat ignorance as well as Holocaust denial, a prevalent threat to today's modern world, particularly from Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinijahd, whose proclamation of the Holocaust as 'myth' is met by indifference in the world community. Fortunately, not in Israel.

Education, remembrance, honor, as well as defiance were the integral themes during the ceremony, which carried over to the following day, as is custom of the Jewish calendar. Yom Hashoah brought sirens at 10am, as it does every year for this somber holiday, in which the entire nation pauses in tribute. At Yad Vashem, the morning brought many students and servicemen and women, as well as visitors from all ages- paying tribute to the victims of the Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew and universally deemed. 

As I covered the Yom HaShoah event, I was touched not only by the throngs of international visitors and Israeli servicemen and women who came atop Mount Herzl, but also by their overall interest to all of the varied and comprehensive exhibitions. 

"It's moving, emotional and busy," Yad Vashem's Foreign Media Liaison Estee Yaari told me. "The importance to talk about the Holocaust is even higher than in years past."  Recently, "there has been a spike" of hits on Yad Vashem's web site, which includes a list database of names of those who perished accompanied by various testimony videos, provided by the Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles. 

Ms. Yaari told me the number of web visitors has grown to 260,000, an increase of 43% from 2008. For many of the survivors who attended the ceremony as well as for those who came to the exhibits on Yom HaShoah, while being already educated about the plight of the Jews by the Nazis, the impetus to come served to remind them and their ilk to honor the fallen victims, mostly their family members. Their presence also meant to remember how lucky they were to survive, not to mention to accept the fragility of human existence. Those who have never been to Yad Vashem in Israel must go. 

Steven Spielberg once said he made "Schindler's List" to try to fathom the ineffable, which was the Holocaust. It was inspiring to see so many were compelled to be in such a poignant place.  As the banner on the stage podium reads, one needs to be," remembering the past, [as a means to be] shaping the future." It is an obligation for people of all faiths to continue educating the youth about the Holocaust.  

A trip to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem is a good start.