Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial Day Today

Israel came to a near-total standstill at 10:00 this morning when a two-minute siren sounded in commemoration of Holocaust Heroism Day.

, | updated: 10:13

Buses stopped in mid-route, office workers stood up in mid-conversation and were silent, and teachers stopped their classes throughout the country to recite a silent prayer and/or stand in silent devotion in memory of the more than six million martyrs murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust of 1939-1945.

Some people ignored the siren, however. One bystander at a busy Jerusalem intersection saw many Arab cars whizzing around stopped Jewish cars, purposefully ignoring the poignant human experience going on around them.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the Rishon LeTzion, who served as Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi from 1983-1993, explained what this day stands for. He wrote that though according to Jewish tradition, the month of Nissan is not a time for sad commemorations, and though Israel's Chief Rabbinate has set aside the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet as a day to mourn for Holocaust victims, there is a difference between the two days: "The Tenth of Tevet is a day of remembering the Holocaust and the Day for General Kaddish [a memorial prayer], while the 27th of Nissan [today] is a day for remembering the heroism shown by the Jews during the Holocaust."

Rabbi Eliyahu recounted the following anecdote. The Head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva once arrived in Rome and stood at the triumphal arch erected by the emperor Titus over 1,900 years ago in celebration of his victory over the Jews. The rabbi called out, "Titus, Titus! Where are you today? All that's left of you is this gate, while the People of Israel still lives eternally and forever!"

Website archivist Jacob Richman has posted on his website 145 educational Holocaust-related links, in English, Hebrew, German, and other languages.

Ceremonies were held last night and today around the country. President Moshe Katzav, the Chief Rabbis, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and other public figures took part in the central event at Yad Vashem last night. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon was the central speaker at a ceremony in Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak, between Raanana and Netanya; the theme of the event was, "Children After the Liberation."

Yad Vashem - the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority - reports the following numbers from the year 2004:

* 74,000 pupils and 30,000 Israeli soldiers participated in Yad Vashem educational courses.
* Over 2,000 educators from Israel and abroad participated in Yad Vashem teacher-training seminars in Israel.
* Over 5,000 educators took part in training courses in 22 countries.
* 800,000 people visited Yad Vashem.
* 40 new books were published by Yad Vashem.
* 3,150,000 news pages of Holocaust-era documentation were received, bringing the total in Yad Vashem's archives to 65 million pages.
* 407,000 new names of Holocaust victims were added, bringing the total to nearly 3 million.
* 24,000 new Pages of Testimony about Holocaust victims were received - nearly half of them in the month after the uploading of the Names Database.
* 529 new Holocaust survivor testimonies were recorded by the Oral History Section of the Archives Division, which currently houses some 41,000 video, audio and written testimonies.
* 3,300 new books were acquired by the library, bringing the total to 101,600 in 50 languages.
* 540 individuals were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. To date, 20,757 individuals have been thus recognized.