Remembering the Shoah on the Mount of Olives

Each year I commemorate Yom HaShoah differently.

Batya Medad,

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My major "life change" after surviving a terror attack was a stronger faith in G-d and a security in the belief that He's truly directing my life. All I have to do is "hold on" and react appropriately.
We hadn't an inkling that the political and security situation would get worse.

Not having had been raised with a knowledge of the Shoah, the Nazi-caused Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews and many others, each year I find myself commemorating Yom HaShoah differently.

This year, I found myself traveling with friends, during rush hour, to comfort another friend and Bible teacher on the death of her father. She lives in Ma'ale HaZaytim, a Jewish neighborhood "compound" next to the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem.

When we first made Aliyah in 1970, we lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Maon Betar, a renovated Jewish building on the corner of HaYehudim and Plugat HaKotel streets, which was surrounded by Arabs. In those days, the Arabs, still in awe of our Six Day War victory, didn't bother us and we had no security detail. The main door wasn't even kept locked. That was before the area was known as "the Jewish Quarter." We hadn't an inkling that the political and security situation would get worse and that, with the exception of one small neighborhood, Jews would need high walls and full-time security to live near Arabs on Jewish-owned land.

The friend who was driving explained that there were only two ways to go to Ma'ale HaZaytim, by cab or by car, since it isn't considered safe for Jews to walk there. We skirted the Old City Walls in the direction of Sha'ar HaRachamim and the Mount of Olives ancient Jewish cemetery, which is still in use. Soon, we entered a parking area and the modern building built on land bought by Jews a hundred years before.

While visiting, besides our mourning friend talking about her late father, amazing Shoah stories were told. She also told us the background of her new home.

Before driving back home, we walked around the park-playground there and admired the facilities and view. It's so different from the outdoor freedom and natural greenery we have in Shiloh and Eli. But both are examples of modern Jewish pioneering, and both are necessary for Jewish survival today. Remember that standing still is going backwards. We must constantly expand the Jewish presence in our Holy Land.
Four Jewish women driving confidently among the Arabs was the best way for us to commemorate the Shoah.

Driving back, we suddenly heard sirens just as we were passing near Sha'ar Shechem, Damascus Gate, and we realized that they were the Holocaust Memorial Day sirens. We had less than seconds to decide what to do. Should we stop the car, get out and stand at attention, like Israelis in the rest of the country, or should we continue with the moving traffic? Yes, the traffic by the Old City walls was moving and we were about to turn into an "Arab road," which leads to French Hill and home. Stopping the car wasn't an option, certainly not a safe one. And I wonder how Jewish it is, standing silently with one's head bowed while a siren blows.

The origin of the siren is most probably the shofar, but the shofar blast is not a signal to stand passively. It's a call to action, whether internally spiritual, or as an order to actively do a great mitzvah. I think that with the Arabs in the cars and on the streets surrounding us, four Jewish women driving confidently among them was the best way for us to commemorate the Shoah.





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