President Reuven Rivlin speaks at Yad Mordechai
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at Yad MordechaiMark Neiman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin spoke on Thursday at the ceremony closing Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Day) at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, which this year marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Avraham Duvdevani, Blue and White chairman MK Benny Gantz and actress Lea Koenig also spoke at the ceremony.

President Rivlin began by saying, “The Warsaw Ghetto fighters - those we were privileged to meet, those who did not get out of there alive and those who have passed away over the years – they were, and still are, heroes. The force of Jewish resistance, fighting for freedom and in the name of life, lifted the spirits of oppressed Jews beset by grief and suffering, death and destruction. The desire of revenge and the daring of rebellion in the heart of the Nazi empire of occupation, the strength to say ‘no more’ left a deep impression on the entire people for generations.”

“The Warsaw Ghetto uprising has come to symbolize Jewish resistance. But the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was not the only revolt, and not the only form of resistance. There was an underground that operated in Sobibor, and the prisoners’ uprising took Treblinka out of action. The Sonderkommando rose up at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and many Jews in ghettos fought and took revenge.”

The president added, “Jewish resistance took infinite guises: armed struggle and facing the Nazi enemy, by young people and by grown-ups, by partisans and by those who hid, by those with beards and side-locks, by musicians, doctors, authors and craftspeople. By Jewish soldiers in the United States, in the Red Army, by Jewish girls who stayed with their elderly parents and young siblings, even when they knew what their fate would be.”

Rivlin also noted, “For many years, the left and right in Israel fought over memory but today, the perspective of time allows us to try and find the way to remember together. ‘Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished’, we read in Ecclesiastes. No more left and right when it comes to the memory of the Holocaust, no more secular and religious, no more Zionists and non-Zionists, no more Sefardim and Ashkenazim, but one people remembering together, grieving together for its dead, our sons and daughters.”

The president commented on the death of the Admor of Kaliv, “the Holocaust Admor” who suffered terribly as an inmate at Auschwitz and dedicated his life to the memory of the victims. “The Admor gave voice the spiritual heroism of Jews during the Holocaust and did all he could to honor the memory of its victims. He did not see left and right. In an interview for the Walla website, he said ‘in all the years I have lived here, I have never been a member of any party. I hate the parties, but love all my brothers and sisters who are members of them.’ May the memory of our brothers and sisters, the heroes, be forever bound up in the hearts of the nation and their souls bound up in the bond of life.”