Millions of Israelis took two minutes on Thursday to reflect on the Holocaust and its relevance to their lives, as the nation stood at attention as sirens sounded in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. In a uniquely Israeli custom, Israelis from all backgrounds experienced a moment of transcendent unity as they stood in reflection in offices and schools, on the roads, and in their homes. Individuals reflected in their own ways, with some considering their family histories and the fact that their families survived one of the darkest eras of Jewish history, while others said silent prayers for the souls of the murdered.
Unfortunately, not everyone observes the custom of standing at attention to honor the memories of Holocaust victims – evidenced by the fact that two people were injured Thursday morning as they stood by the side of their vehicles during the time the sirens sounded. One woman in her 60s was badly injured when she was hit by a passing vehicle in Be'ersheva. The woman was pinned under the vehicle, and was eventually extracted using a tire jack and treated on the spot by emergency medical personnel. She was taken to Soroka Hospital in the city for further treatment. A second incident occurred on a highway near Holon, where a woman was moderately injured by a hit and run driver. She was being treated at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
Police did not release the identity of the drivers in either incident, but witnesses in the Be'ersheva incident said that they thought the driver was an Israeli Arab or Bedouin. “The media usually goes to Meah She'arim or other hareidi neighborhood and looks for footage of hareidim who don't stand at attention during these sirens, but they never come to places like Beersheva to observe how Arabs completely ignore the sirens,” said one witness, adding that “at least the hareidim don't drive and run down Jews who are standing at the side of their car.”
The Holocaust and mourning the loss of European Jewry are actually a central part of hareidi education. The hareidi world is engaged in unique Holocaust,research, recording and documenting what occurred to religious Jewry during the war. There is, however, resistance in some hareidi.circles to standing at attention and the use of the siren, considered a non-Jewish custom [chukot hagoyim, ed], for collective recollection. Some engage in the traditional study of Mishnayot in memory of the victims instead, others suggest remaining at home so as not to seem disrespectful.