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Israelis to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day beginning at sundown tonight

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial will stream ceremonies live so viewers can connect from Israel and around the world

Yad Vashem Security guard stands at the empty Hall of Names in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on April 19, 2020. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A solemn observance of Israel’s annual Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah in Hebrew) will begin at 8 p.m. Israel time today (April 7) in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on the Mount of Remembrance.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver remarks at the opening ceremony, while Ronen Plot, acting chairman of Yad Vashem, will light the Memorial Torch to commemorate the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

This central theme of this year’s public gathering is “Until the Very Last Jew: Eighty Years Since the Onset of Mass Annihilation.” During the 75-minute live broadcast, six Holocaust survivors will each light a torch – a symbolic representation of the 6 million Jewish victims – while short videos will be shown to highlight their individual stories. Israeli singers will perform and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Paratroopers’ Honor Guard will participate in the ceremony as well.

The memorial service will also feature Israel’s chief rabbis reciting the traditional readings, including a chapter from Psalms, the Kaddish mourner's prayer and the El Maleh Rahamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs.

Yom Hashoah is a solemn day for Israelis – places of entertainment are closed, while memorial services are held in schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work throughout the country to honor the memory of the victims.  

The following morning, April 8, the day-long ceremony begins at 10 a.m. with the traditional sounding of a two-minute siren (which takes place throughout the country), during which each person in Israel stands in silent attention to honor victims of the Holocaust. The remainder of the schedule includes numerous activities which include the placing of wreaths at the foot of each torch, reciting the names of Holocaust victims, online lectures and a virtual behind-the-scenes tour. A special section of Yad Vashem’s website is dedicated to Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2021 and contains detailed information about the events and ceremonies taking place throughout the day.

Holocaust survivors, children of survivors and their families are invited to participate, along with the general public.

However, not every member of the public will be welcome to attend.

Yad Vashem clearly stated that entrance to the memorial event is only for those who can provide an official “green pass” issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health, without exception. Israel’s controversial “green pass” – a digital vaccination certificate to prove one has either received two doses of Pfizer’s anti-COVID-19 vaccine or recovered from COVID-19 ­– was rolled out by the Israeli government earlier this year. The ruling, and its implementation, has received criticism for what many believe to be government-instituted discrimination – violating the rights of people who choose not to be vaccinated.

The irony of a “green pass” restriction for this week’s Holocaust Memorial event, in particular, would not be lost on Israeli human rights lawyer, Tamir Turgal. In February, Turgal told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that he was busy handling cases that potentially violate people’s civil rights and medical privacy. He likened the situation to being “reminiscent of darker times in history.”

“All these people with good intentions are trying to get us back to before World War II,” he said. “We were raised on the history of the Holocaust and we never thought we’d be in a time of 1933 — not in the war, but in the time before it.”

Just last month, Turgal referred to the concept of a green pass as the “last nail in the dark black coffin of democracy.”

Yad Vashem was established in 1953 as the World Holocaust Remembrance Center by an act of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). The Center is responsible for commemorating, documenting, researching and educating the public about the Holocaust. Yad Vashem also honors the Righteous Among the Nations – those individuals who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. 

This week’s Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Day is not to be confused with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place every year on Jan. 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed worldwide and includes events hosted by the United Nations and the European Union in conjunction with Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem.

Without exception, all are welcome to watch Israel’s LIVE broadcast of Yom Hashoah tomorrow, which will be simultaneously translated into English, as well as French, Spanish, German, Russian and Hebrew via its respective language website. This is the first year Yad Vashem is offering simultaneous translation in Arabic on its YouTube channel

The event begins on Wednesday, April 7 at 8 p.m. Israel time, noon CDT, 1 p.m. EDT.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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