ELKAN’S VIEW 15th April 2015
I was strolling through a park in Ra’anana last week when I heard an orchestra and choir rehearsing the Hatikvah. The tune is haunting, although its origins are by no means clear. The wording, by the poet Naftali Hertz Imber, has become so familiar as to almost lose its force. The phrase “Od lo avda tikvateynu – our hope is not yet lost” is a direct rebuttal of the phrase in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones.
What particularly struck me is how very near the valley of the dry bones we actually came. As I write this, it is the evening of Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day.
Tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock the siren will sound throughout the whole of Israel and everything will come to a halt. Buses and cars will stop on the motorways and roads, and the passengers will get out and stand in silence in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered merely because they were Jews.
Six million is a very difficult figure to envisage. The current population of Israel is estimated at 8.2 million of which 6.1 million are Jews. To envisage the extent of the Holocaust therefore we need to imagine an Israel – populated, teeming, people everywhere going busily about their business and preoccupations, studying, driving holidaying working – with all its Jewish population removed.
Envisage in your mind’s eye a Jerusalem or a Tel Aviv or a Haifa or any other of the hundreds of towns and villages and settlements, or stripped of their population by force, and that population removed with cruelty and terror to be murdered on an industrial scale. That is the extent of the Holocaust.
Is there any reason any more to question the need for a Jewish state? Genocide has not gone away but the world does not seem to care any more and the silence is as deafening now as it was then.
Well does Hatikvah say that we have nurtured for 2000 years the dream of being “Am chofshi be’artzeynu – a free people in our own land”. We are privileged to be of the generation that has seen this dream become reality.