While there are many historic connections between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, there is one connection that repeats itself annually – the completion of the March of the Living, which began in the death camps of Poland, and culminates in Israel on Memorial Day, and Yom Ha'atzma'ut (Independence Day).
Some 11,000 people participated in the March this year, with many of the participants coming from abroad, and on Monday, Memorial Day, many of them attended the somber ceremonies remembering fallen IDF soldiers at the Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Among the visitors were members of Temple Menorah of Miami Beach. Rabbi Eliot Pearlson, who led the group, said that he saw the visit to Israel as an apt continuation of the experience in Poland. Monday's ceremonies, he said were “a continuation of the March of the Living, of how young men and women sacrificed their lives for the survival of the Jewish People. But like the Holocaust it is the story about our enemies, how they tried to annihilate us. For so many of the 6 million there are no kevarot, no graves to visit for us to express our pain and rage,” Pearlson said.
Eventually, though, he hopes that the Memorial Day part of the experience will lessen in importance. “Our real goal is to make sure there are no more graves. Unfortunately every year Mt. Herzl gets a little bigger,” he said.
Pearlson added that the March of the Living was not only important for remembering the losses of the Jewish people, but as an educational tool. “Unfortunately I live in the Diaspora and I can tell you that there are a few programs that make a significant difference. March of the Living is one of them,” he said. Not to denigrate any other program, he said, but the March of the Living somehow spoke more to many people. “They bring students that have no history, no knowledge, and the reaction is universal – seven year olds cry as much as seventeen year olds,” Pearlson added.