A few days before Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) in Israel, I was warned that when I heard the air raid sirens I wasn’t to be afraid. I was to stop whatever I was doing and be quiet and not move for two minutes. My friends told me that all of Israel stops on that day.
I laughed. Getting an Israeli to stand still and shut up is like hoping a penny on the tracks will stop a high speed train. I just couldn’t imagine it. It’s a noisy place filled with too many people shouting loudly all the time just to be heard. Too much energy. This was something I wanted to see, but I didn’t believe I’d see it.
The day arrived and I was out on the streets of downtown Tel Aviv running an errand. I’d forgotten and was startled when the sirens went off. I kept walking for a few seconds until I realized that no one was moving around me.
Nothing. People were standing on the street silent and unmoving. All the cars were stopped and their drivers and passengers were outside, standing next to their vehicles. I froze.
Not a sound. Not a shout. Not a honk. Not an engine noise. Not a blaring radio. Silence. No babies crying. No mothers scolding. No shopkeepers shouting their wares. Silence. No airplanes. No motor scooters. No dogs barking. No sound anywhere.
Except the wailing siren.
No movement. No children running around. No dogs wandering. No one gesturing. Nothing. Silence and stillness.
Next to me, an old man stood, his face a mass of tired wrinkles, head bowed, tears flowing down his face staining his ragged white t-shirt. A young girl ahead of me had her cell phone in one hand, cigarette in the other, headphones out of her ears, her head lifted up, also crying silent tears.
And the siren wailed on.
I wondered if this was happening all over the country. Over six million people all standing still in this moment listening to the air sirens in their communities. In downtown Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheva, Akko. In the small villages, Arab, Jewish, mixed, and neither. In the settlement towns along the borders. Were they all standing still and silent, too?
Later, my husband told me that he was in the car driving and almost slammed into the guy in front of him who stopped his car on the freeway. He watched everyone get out of their cars a few moments before the sirens went off, heard through the car radio as every station played the air raid sirens. He thought it was a good way to test the air raid system. He got out of the car and joined hundreds of other drivers and cars, standing still and quiet on one of the most busy highways in Israel.
This couldn’t happen in the United States or Russia, I thought, areas so wide with too many people and multiple time zones. How could you stop all these people in their tracks for two minutes? Wouldn’t happen in the United States, I was sure.
What a way to honor those who died in the Holocaust, and those who survived. Then I realized that I was standing with millions of people who were all thinking the same thought: about the Holocaust.
My eyes filled with tears and the stillness around me blurred. Over six million people all had the same thought at the same time: Never forget. Remember what happened. Remember who died. Remember the loss. Remember the pain. Remember the suffering. Remember so it never happens again.
Then the siren faded off, the ghostly sound still ringing in my ears, quickly replaced by traffic noises, horns honking, radios blaring, children crying, dogs barking, shopkeepers shouting, and cell phones ringing. It was life back to loud normal as I continued to stay still, lost in the moment I just experienced, as Tel Aviv in motion stampeded around me. Life was in full rush again.
Over the next five years, I experienced a profound understanding and personal growth in these two minutes of annual silence. I felt one with everyone in the country, no matter their history, origin or religion. Together, for two minutes, we shared a common thought.
I examined my feelings and position on war, evil, genocide, terrorism, and the killing humans do to each other in the name of gods, money, property, and power. I found an agony in remembering and a peace in realizing that by remembering, we make sure that others did not forget, least we repeat ourselves.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where violence and murder ignored far outweighs killing recognized. We live in a world where people think violence is a form of communication, of getting their message across, though the dead aren’t listening any more, and the killers never were in the first place.
I live in a world desensitized to violence. We praise violent movies and are addicted to violent computer games. We’ve only recently, as a society, thought beating wives and children is a bad thing. It’s been acceptable for thousands of years, and still is in much of the world.
When was the last time you cried over the death of a solider or Iraqi reported in the news? Will you cry over the victims of the Virginia college shooting? Or those killed daily in India over religious and political infighting? Or the Afghanistans still struggling, now partially ignored by the US and a candy factory for the drug lords? Or people living with kidnapping and murder in Central America every day as a way of life? Or the ongoing genocides in Sudan and nearby countries? Any tears spent there? Nah, it’s happening “over there”. And we stay desensitized and disaffected.
Silence is a Memoriam, Not a Reason to Stop Blogging
What about you? Will you honor the one day of blog silence or use this as a platform to speak out about world victimization and violence?
Why not silence the web for a day, to give yourself time to think and share a united day of thought with the rest of the blogosphere? You may find the experience as powerful as I did mine. I think of the power of the silent protesters led by Martin Luther King and how their refusal to move and refusal to speak put them in jail and changed the world.
A day of silence is a memoriam. It is not a reason to stop blogging. It’s not a reason to stop talking. If anything, preparation before and after the event are the best times to do some serious talking and blogging.
As you debate this issue for your own self, I’d like you to also stop and really think about what you are doing to change the world with your blog. If your blog has brought you some measure of fame and fortune, are you using it in any way to make the world a better place?
If silence will make a statement for you, then what are you doing to speak out before and after the silence to let people know why this moment is so important for you to participate in.
If talking will make a statement for you, what will that statement be? I’d love to have a day where every post on every blog around the world stood on their soap box with solutions for world peace. Maybe someone will run with that.
Will you rant and rave about the forgotten dead and bash the United States for mourning their own? Or will you rant against governments who fail to act to protect their citizens? Or protect the people of other lands? Or pick on the media for ignoring the plight of so many?
Complaining might get you attention, but how about some solutions? Why not offer some answers instead of some whines? Why not share with the world one thing you are doing to make the world better?
I think the remembering is fine, but I’m ready for some doing, too. Aren’t you?
…Do I want to remember this world upside down?
Where the departed are blessed with an instant death.
While the living condemned to a short wretched life,
And a long tortuous journey into unnamed place,
Converting Living Souls, into ashes and gas.
No. I Have to Remember and Never Let You Forget.
Yesterday, over six million people in Israel stood still for 2 minutes to honor Yom HaShoah. On April 30, 2007, those of us who understand the power of silence will honor all those who needlessly die at the hands of others.
It’s quite the quandary.
We should not stand still while others are being killed. We should stand still to remember so it never happens again.