As they stood contemplating the meaning of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day at 10 AM local time Monday, as sirens sounded around the country, thousands of Israelis were jarred by a text message that appeared on their phones – at that very moment.
The message, from Israel Railways, was a reminder to monthly pass holders that they needed to renew their monthly train passes, as the month was almost up.
“Dear Passenger, we remind you that your railway pass will expire in two days. Our personnel are available at ticket booths to assist you, or you can renew the cards at ticket machines at Israel Railways stations. For further information please contact the Israel Railways service desk. Have a pleasant ride.”
It was a routine message, but it came at a very unique moment – the exact time that Israelis stand at attention and reflect on the Holocaust as the sirens sound in commemoration of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day.
At the sounding of the siren, Israelis are expected to stand and reflect on the meaning of the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jews, and the destruction of the long-lived Jewish communities of Europe. Traffic comes to a halt, as Israelis step out of their vehicles and stand besides them as the siren is sounded.
In this case, though, the somber mood was marred by the Israel Railways message, which shook many people out of their pensive mood.
Fearing an emergency at work or at home - what else, after all, would justify sending a text message during the sounding of the siren? - many of those who received the message took out their devices, and were shocked to see its content and source.
An Israel Railways spokesperson apologized for the incident. “Israel Railways has instituted a new messaging program for riders using our smart passes. It is an automatic system that sends out messages on a scheduled basis. We apologize for the incident.”