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May 2 2011

The Sirens and The Silence

By at 10:13 am

Inside Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Photo by Sebastian Scheiner / AP.

I remember the first moment I imagined a monster lurking beneath my bed. (I was 2 years old.) I remember the first time my mom told me where babies come from. (I was 5.)  I remember the day when I found out the Tooth Fairy isn’t real. (I was in the second grade.) But I don’t remember the first time I learned about the Holocaust.

It’s just something I’ve always known. Like gravity, it’s a given.  It’s embedded in my genetic memory.

So, I don’t know how my parents told me about the horrors that happened just a few decades ago. I don’t know what words they used, or what questions I asked.

I just know that I know.

Last night was Erev Yom HaShoah – the evening before Holocaust Memorial Day.

And for the first time, my children watched the memorial ceremony streaming live from Yad Vashem on Chanel Two. M sucked her thumb. The music made her sad. Little Homie nursed, oblivious to the solemn speeches, and powerful stories shared by the six honored survivors chosen to light the six memorial candles.

Six nightmares.

Six miracles.

And after we stood for Kaddish, we sang HaTikvah.

I let my children see me cry.

And Little Homie brushed my tears with his fingertips. M looked at me. “Sad, mama?”

Yes. I am sad. And devastated. And appalled. But deep within these feelings – overtaking the horror of it all– I am proud…because we have not lost our Hope. No matter what happens to us. We are still here.

Remembering.

And now, 13 hours later, the siren’s primal howl sounds throughout Israel, and the entire country grinds to a halt. We put aside all the grievances and stress. Arguments end midsentence. Even the children stop playing, their bodies eerily still on the playground. Every car pulls to the side of the road. We stand.  Together. Our ears ring with the sound of too many screams mixed down into one keening wail.

Terrible things – unspeakable things happened. But. We. Are. Still. Here. And we will not let them happen again. Not to us, not to anyone. And our children will know and they will remember, even if they can’t remember when they learned to never forget.

When your kids ask about the Holocaust, how do you respond? Read our tips here.


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