This evening, Israel remembers the Holocaust for 24 hours. I have been here for 8 years now, and my experiences on this day are varied, from army ceremonies to movie nights. Every year, this day confuses me more, and I find that I don’t know how to mark the occasion anymore, because I can’t help feel as though we as a collective entity are missing something.
I shared an article yesterday on facebook that explains that 45,000 holocaust survivors are living in Israel under the poverty line and that 20,000 receive no support from the state. It got one like… and while it’s a difficult subject, and no one wants to think about those suffering, we can’t just ignore this reality. Every year leading up to this day, similar articles are shared. I credit the endless organizations and good-hearted individuals for working to help holocaust survivors, but they shouldn’t be alone in this fight.
The Holocaust and the events surrounding it sent the world an important message: Jews cannot be secure without their own country. That’s how the text-books relay this message and that is the narrative that we have all come to believe. We fly to Poland for a week and return with a new-found understanding of what it means to be Jews in a Jewish homeland. We understand why we need a place that can guarantee us this security. Except that, we aren’t secure. One in four holocaust survivors in Israel are living below the poverty line, and I can’t imagine that very many of them wake up in the morning feeling secure. Safety is a feeling of physical security, but it is also one of economic security, and that is exactly what many survivors do not have.
Every year, on this day, we read a list of names of those who perished, and in the shadows of the names are those who are still alive. We sometimes talk to survivors on this day, but the main focus is rarely about survivors.
Yet, in the end of the day, this country wasn’t founded for those who died, but for those who continued living. We should remember those murdered and forever be aware of the atrocities committed. However, if we are commemorating the dead while ignoring those still alive with real, concrete and tangible needs, then we as a society have missed something.
Too often today, the holocaust is used for political gain. Almost every time an MK uses the word Nazi, it makes me feel uneasy. It is often in the context of Iran, terrorism, or Antisemitism. If we are so conscious of the pain caused during the time of the holocaust, how can we so easily allow survivors to spend their final years suffering?
I am in no means equating the suffering individuals experienced in the holocaust to that of financial insecurity, but I do believe that the country has a real responsibility to help those who experienced those horrors. Let us not call ourselves a Jewish state if we are incapable of even helping those who suffered in the name of Antisemitism. We can change our priorities today and re-arrange our budget tomorrow.
When the siren wails tomorrow, I will stand, along with millions of others, to remember those who died, because the loss of life so great must be noted. Yet, in remembering those who died, we not must forget those who survived. This year, instead of saying the names of those who perished, maybe we should confront our government with the names of those still alive.