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Israeli Air Force Gives Tel Aviv a Scare as Syria Tensions Flare

By Reuters & VOA News

Israelis stood still on Thursday for a nationwide moment of silence in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, as a two-minute siren wailed across the country and the nation paid respects to those systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in World War II. As every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, buses and cars halted on streets and highways and Israelis stepped out of their vehicles, standing with heads bowed in solemn remembrance. The somber day is also marked by ceremonies and memorials at schools and community centers. Restaurants and cafes in the ordinarily bustling streets of Tel Aviv shutter, and TV and radio stations play Holocaust-themed programs. Dignitaries laid wreaths at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Israeli police emergency lines lit up on Thursday after warplanes roared over the Tel Aviv coast, dropping anti-missile flares and performing aerobatics at a time of tension along the border with Syria. It was just a rehearsal - practice flights are held every year - for the Israeli Air Force's annual Independence Day national fly past on April 19, but no prior announcement was made. "Many calls were received from worried citizens about noise from a squadron of planes in the Tel Aviv area," police said in statement. "We would like to make clear they were training for the Independence Day aerial display. There's no emergency." Under clear skies over Tel Aviv's Mediterranean beach, two F-15 jets maneuvered through a series of sharp turns, climbs and dives in what appeared to be a mock dogfight as the sound of their engines crackled through the streets. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump warned Russia of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, and Israel held top-level security consultations over concerns it might be a target for Syrian or Iranian retaliation. Trump said on Thursday that a possible strike against Syria "could be very soon or not so soon at all." Despite the tensions, the commander of Israel's armed forces, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, flew to Poland on Thursday morning to take part in Holocaust Remembrance Day events. The Israeli military tweeted a video of him boarding a plane but did not immediately say when he was scheduled to return. A source in the delegation told Reuters, however, that Eizenkot would be back by nightfall. A third of the world's Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Israel was established afterward in 1948, and hundreds of thousands of survivors fled to the Jewish state. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a Holocaust memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem and warned that archenemy Iran should not test Israel amid rising tensions in Syria. "Events of recent days teach that standing up to evil and aggression is a mission imposed on every generation," Netanyahu said. "Today as well, a murderous regime threatens us, threatens entire world peace, this regime explicitly declares that it intends to annihilate us, the Jewish state," he said, alluding to Iran. Netanyahu compared the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the run-up to World War II. He said the agreement "released the Iranian regime from its chains and since has devoured country after country, similar to what happened in Europe in the 1930s." Israel regards Iran as an existential threat because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and support for anti-Israel organizations such as the Shiite militant group Hizbullah in Lebanon and Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Tehran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Iranian General Threatens to 'Raze Tel Aviv to the Ground'


A senior Iranian military official threatened to destroy Israel as part of an escalating war of words between the Jewish State and the Islamic Republic. According to Ali Shirazi, who serves as the liaison between Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian military's Quds Force, "Iran has the capability to destroy Israel and given the excuse, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be razed to the ground. Iran is not Syria," added Shirazi. "If Israel wants to survive a few more days, it has to stop this childish game." Shirazi's threats come as tensions rise between Israel and Iran following an alleged Israeli attack on the Syrian military's T-4 airbase earlier this week. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country's conflict, said 14 fighters were killed, including Syrian army officers and Iranian forces. Iran has long been a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has been providing him with both financial aid and military advisors against a range of opposing forces. The airstrike came just days after a sarin nerve gas attack in the city of Douma, east of Damascus that killed dozens of civilians. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu used his official address at the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes' Remembrance Day ceremony to warn Iran "not to test Israel's determination to protect itself. Even today, an extreme regime threatens us, threatens the peace of the entire world - this regime explicitly declares that it intends to destroy us, the Jewish state," said Netanyahu. "There are those who delude themselves, as in Munich in 1938, that the agreement with the Iranian regime will stop its aggression."

Rivlin: Many Poles Helped Carry Out Holocaust

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, that many Poles helped the Nazis exterminate the Jewish population of Poland before the annual March of the Living. "This land was a forge of the Jewish nation's soul, and to our deep sorrow, also its largest Jewish graveyard. You can't erase such a rich history, full, painful history," Rivlin told Duda during their meeting in Krakow shortly before the start of the march Thursday. Rivlin addressed a controversial bill passed by the Polish Parliament and signed into law by Duda which declares it illegal to suggest Poland bore any responsibility for crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany on its soil during World War II. Violators could face up to three years in prison. The Israeli president said that while there were Poles who helped rescue many Jews, there were also many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis in the murder of Jews and who murdered Jews themselves during World War II. "People murdered and then inherited [the property of the dead]. Here there was a foundation [of anti-Semitic sentiment] that allowed the Nazis to do as they wished, not only in Poland but throughout Europe," Rivlin said. "The country of Poland allowed the implementation of the horrific genocidal ideology of Hitler, and witnessed the wave of anti-Semitism sparked by the law you passed now," he added. "There is no doubt that many Poles fought the Nazi regime, but we can't deny the fact that Poland and Poles helped in the extermination." Rivlin said that Poland must ensure that the memory of the Holocaust "You have to understand the feeling of the Jewish people in Israel, and we see the Holocaust as the result of anti-Semitism that led to the slaughter of the Jewish people out of a Nazi ideology that flourished on Polish soil. But we also have a deep disagreement about which we have spoken, and we demand that Poland continue to be committed to a comprehensive and unlimited study of the events and processes of the Holocaust. " "This is the agreement between the two countries, and it is fitting that it be the responsibility of the statesmen to shape the future ... Historians have the duty to describe the past and explore history. Education and research is the way to pass the torch of remembrance and responsibility to future generations. The president added: "It is important for Jews and Israelis to know the diverse Jewish history of Poland, and it is important that young people and adults in Poland know and learn about what happened here during the Second World War, and I greatly appreciate the cooperation of the Polish government and the National Museum in Auschwitz with the March of the Living. I hope we will find the right path to continue to combine remembrance, research and education for the benefit of future generations." Polish President Duda said: "Our meeting here is a great honor, but also a testimony to the great tragedy that took place here, and we are meeting here at the March of the Living as evidence of the memory of the Jewish Holocaust. We call on the entire world to see where xenophobia and anti-Semitism can lead to a cry to the entire world to remember that people must respect one another and never again. " He defended Poland's attempt's protect its reputation regarding the Holocaust. "So many Jews have sacrificed their lives over the years for the sake of Poland and its independence and their graves are scattered all over Poland, not because they were murdered, but because they fought so that Poland could live in its independence. Mr. President, I want to emphasize once more - But I want to make it clear again that at no stage did we want to block testimony [of the Holocaust]. On the contrary, we wanted to defend the historical truth, and I, as a leader, want to do it at any cost even when it is difficult for us." The Polish president also said: "I am not afraid to say that there were people whose behavior should be condemned, but there were also people who should be proud of them ... The authorities tried to protect the Jews, but they condemned them to death ... We are not going to block that testimony. Mr. President, I think that our joint march here will make it clear to the entire world that we will never again."

The Evils of the Holocaust Demand that Each One of Us be a Lifesaver

By David M. Schizer (Commentary)

Remembering the Holocaust is a solemn duty that all of humanity shares. On Yom Hashoah, which started on Wednesday evening, we should remember the heroes as well as the villains. There was pure evil, to be sure, but also courage, principle and sacrifice. The inspiring aspects of the Shoah – like stars glittering in the darkest sky – have become clearer to me after a year leading the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which rescued Jews and supported resistance during World War II. When the war ended, JDC cared for survivors in displaced persons camps. Today, JDC provides lifesaving care to over 50,000 survivors in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. I cannot say this work has changed my view of the Holocaust. The murder of millions still horrifies me beyond words, and I will never understand it. But I have learned three lessons from the Holocaust that I find motivating and even uplifting. These lessons should resonate with every Jew, even at a time when the global Jewish community is divided about many issues. First, when lives are at stake, we should never give up. Even in the darkest times – indeed, especially in those times – we should do what we can to create a bit of light. This point is especially resonant this year, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on April 19, 1943. Residents of the ghetto worried that Nazi atrocities there would be hidden from the rest of the world. So they wrote testimonials and buried them in aluminum crates. The creator of this secret archive was Emanuel Ringelblum, a historian who was working in Warsaw for JDC when the Germans invaded. Although the Nazis murdered Ringelblum in 1944, others unearthed the crates after the war, preserving an eternal record of suffering and heroism in the ghetto. The ghetto's residents wanted not only to be remembered, but also to resist. They needed money to buy weapons. The main source of these funds was Ringelblum's friend and mentor, Isaac Giterman, who was JDC's director in Poland when the war broke out. When Giterman could no longer tap funds from the United States, he persuaded Polish Jews to spend hidden wealth on the uprising. In addition to weapons, the ghetto fighters also needed a military plan. But it was hard to develop one, since the Nazis did not allow meetings in the ghetto. To circumvent this restriction, Giterman opened a soup kitchen. The military planners served the soup, allowing them to spend time together every day planning the uprising. The Nazis murdered Giterman three months before the uprising, but his courage and resourcefulness show what can be achieved even against impossible odds. The same bravery and ingenuity animated the work of two Christian diplomats in Budapest, Carl Lutz of Switzerland and Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden. They saved over 100,000 Hungarian Jews by arranging hiding places and issuing "protective passports." Much of their work was financed by the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government institution that received nearly all of its funding from JDC and other philanthropic sources. Just as the Holocaust shows that evil can be resisted, even when the prospects of success seem remote, there is a second lesson as well: Jewish life can blossom again, even where indescribable atrocities once were committed. For example, nearly three decades ago my organization established the JDC-Lauder International Jewish Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary. Since then, Camp Szarvas has helped thousands of young Jews from across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to forge strong Jewish identities and become leaders of their local Jewish communities. The third lesson of the Holocaust is more sobering, but perhaps even more motivating: Tragically, more could have been done to rescue Jews from the Nazis, as emphasized by David Wyman, a distinguished Holocaust historian who passed away last month. For example, the United States admitted only a fraction of the refugees that our (restrictive) immigration laws would have allowed. The British barred Jews from Palestine, relenting to Arab pressure. The Allies did not bomb the tracks to concentration camps or adequately fund the War Refugee board. Some Jewish communal organizations failed to treat these issues as their highest priority. Today, the main issue is not whether we are able to help vulnerable Jews across the globe; it's whether we are willing. If we fail to act on their behalf, it is because we are making a choice not to help. This is a choice we must never make. Regardless of our political leanings or our religious denominations, we should commit together to help the vulnerable among us. This is the best way to honor the memory of those we lost during the Shoah. (David M. Schizer is CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.)

Study: 22% of US Millennials Never Heard of the Holocaust


Over a fifth of millennials in the United States have not heard of or are unsure if they have heard of the Holocaust, a study found. The survey, which was commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (also known as the Claims Conference), found that many Americans were unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust. The results were released Thursday, which marks Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. The study included 1,350 interviews with Americans aged 18 and over. While 6 million Jews are estimated killed in the Holocaust, 31% of all respondents and 41% of millennials, aged 18 to 34, believe that number is 2 million or less, according to the survey. Forty-five percent of all respondents could not name a concentration camp or ghetto from World War II, and 41% could not identify Auschwitz, a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The study found that the vast majority of respondents support Holocaust education. Ninety-three percent of the respondents said that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school and 80% said it was important to educate about the Holocaust to prevent it from happening again. Still, 58% of respondents believe that "something like the Holocaust could happen again." The study was conducted Feb. 23-27 by Schoen Consulting. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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