A dark sense of Holocaust, both past and possible
In line for the security check to get into the opening ceremony at Yad Vashem, it struck me. Around me were dozens of military and security officials of one sort or another, all of them casting steely glares as befits army types, some of them donning black jackets, others in uniform of various shades of khaki.
This is the sixth time they have checked us, all of those invited to the ceremony. We are prevented from entering, they pass explosive-detecting devices over our bodies, eventually letting the lucky soul at the head of the line advance to the next checkpoint. Again and again we show our documents.
Finally, we are allowed in, and the real ceremony begins. The current Holocaust Remembrance Day is dedicated to children - the million and a half murdered in the Holocaust and to those who were saved.
President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mention the children in their speeches, but choose to focus on "weightier" issues like anti-Semitism, relevant as ever in light of yesterday's Durban II Conference in Geneva.
Anti-Semitism is, in the president's words, "A disease that isn't Jewish. To heal it we must deal with those from which it comes."
"Nazism was defeated, but anti-Semitism still lives and breathes. The gas has dissipated, but the poison remains. There are still those Holocaust deniers, skinheads and hotheads carrying deep hatred and aiming to kill in the name of racial superiority," he says. Yesterday's Durban Conference in Geneva, Peres says, represents "accepting racism, not fighting it."
Netanyahu says that "the unfortunate fact is that while we are marking Holocaust Remembrance Day here at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, there are those who chose to participate in a show of hate for Israel."
The prime minister praises those countries that boycotted the event and singles out Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz for condemnation for having met with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "How can an enlightened president meet with someone who denies the Holocaust and calls for another one?" he asks.
"We will not let a Holocaust denier commit another Holocaust on the Jewish People. That is the State of Israel's utmost obligation, and that is my responsibility as prime minister."
Toward the end of the ceremony, uniformed police officers let us, a group of media representatives, leave Yad Vashem. They cordon off a "sterile" area through which the president and prime minister can leave. We beg also to be let out, and a soft-hearted officer show us a dark side exit to make our escape.
It is hard to believe that Yad Vashem put together this simulation willingly. On the dark road leading from the museum my thoughts turn to Leah Weisner, today Leah Paz, a survivor who lit one of the torches yesterday, who as a girl of 12 was pushed from a train to Belzec death camp, and I feel her fear.
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