Today, the 27th of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, marks the State of Israel’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s been seven decades now, but the sheer magnitude of the tragedy still resonates powerfully for Jews both in Israel and across the globe. But the focus is not only on the grief and mourning for the past, but no less on celebrating the incredible heroism exhibited by countless many during the period and on reaffirming a resolute, passionate commitment to a better future. The full official name of the day is “Yom ha-Zikaron la-Shoah v-la-gevurah,” or “Memorial Day for the Holocaust and for Heroism.”
In Israel, the focal point of the day’s observance is a two minute long siren sounded throughout the country at exactly 10 A.M., whereupon every single person, no matter where they are or what they’re doing, stops and stands in silent remembrance. I’ve been there and participated in the ritual myself, and I would say that it is easily the most poignant expression of civic and communal solidarity I have ever experienced. And there’s something profoundly hopeful about that.
For a flavor of what the experience is like, have a look at this video of every driver on a busy highway pulling over, getting out of their cars, and standing solemnly at the sound of the siren: