A wound that does not heal
He was well-meaning. I'm convinced of it. His words were meant to be helpful, and in the way of many well-meaning people, they were also deadly.
This is the fourth Holocaust remembrance day since the letter came in. Responding to an article about astronaut Ilan Ramon and the imagery of the Shoa that framed the doomed flight, a reader from Kennewick, Washington headed his letter: "Get over the Holocaust!"
"The nation of Israel", he wrote, needs "to mature and get over the Holocaust. It is like water under the bridge, the past, history. Americans must get over the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Vietnam, Grenada, and Iraq (Desert Storm). That is life. Experience it for all God gives you and get over the past!"
It's a sentiment that makes a certain sense, at least from 9,000 miles away. You want to help, so you advise people who are still pained, still grieving, to move on, to get on with their lives.
It's a sentiment that also proves it's a long way from Washington State to Auschwitz, and farther still to this place, which manages to find room to hold all the ghosts of Auschwitz and hosts more, from as far back as the Inquisition, the destruction of the Temple, slavery in Egypt. All of them, and this month's Passover terrorism as well.
There are readers, many of them, who at this very moment are thinking "Oh no, here it comes, the litany, the ostentatious suffering, the reveling in victimhood, the endless preoccupation with the woes of the Jews."
There are readers who at this very moment are thinking, "These Jews, with all due respect, they learned nothing from the Nazis - they're just as bad in their treatment of the Palestinians, if not worse."
In fact, one of those who chose this Holocaust Remembrance Day to tell us to get on with our lives was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
With exquisite timing, Ahmadinejad chose the eve of Yom Hashoah to issue his latest advisory, telling the Jews of the Holy Land that they should pack up and move away - to Europe - the place, he says, we all came from.
The world leader who shot to international notoriety in October by calling the Holocaust a myth, wasn't through yet. "Logically, this fake regime cannot survive," he said, referring to Israel, in an additional incentive to persuade us to go.
This time, his harshest admonishment was saved for Europeans themselves, his compassion reserved for the Jews, whom he views as being trapped in a huge prison.
"Why did you force them [the Jews] to take refuge in Palestine?" he said, addressing Europe during a rare news conference to which the foreign press was invited. "Why do you think they are comfortable in Palestine? They left because of your anti-Semitism. ... Open the doors of this big jail and let people decide for themselves. You will see they will return to their motherland."
The president is telling us to get over it as well. Move on. And out. For our own good.
It might be time to break it to Ahmadinejad that most of us didn't come from Europe, and few of us have any interest in living there.
It might be time to break it to our readers who believe that we are as bad as the Nazis, that the compassion shown by individual Israeli soldiers in a broad range of contacts with Palestinians often has a great deal to do with the soldiers' consciousness of the Holocaust and of persecution of the Jews.
Anyone who knows this newspaper, knows that it makes great efforts to expose mistreatment of Palestinians by members of the security forces, in an effort to assure that wrongful practices are stopped.
What we do not do, is to do enough to expose and thus encourage the acts of compassion and human generosity that anyone who really knows the IDF, knows are part and parcel of the way the army works.
Some of the most compassionate IDF officers are, in fact, the children and grandchildren of survivors. Hundreds of thousands of them. For them, there is no question of getting over the Holocaust. They will not. For them, every day of their lives is Yom Hashoah. Even after two generations.
It doesn't end, even if you try to make it end. The sins of the Nazis will be visited upon the Jews, perhaps until the tenth generation.
Sixty years on, the Holocaust bears different lessons for all of u s. Some believe that the lesson is do unto others before they do unto you. Others believe that the lesson has much more to do with compassion and tolerance even when it may seem undeserved, when the blood cries vengeance. War does that to you. It replaces compassion with hatred.
Just this once, however, it might be time to look at the Holocaust for what it remains - a wound that will never heal, an experience that is beyond our experience, comprehension, or puny, wrongheaded automatic comparisons to current events.
Just this once, after all these years, let us honor the victims and survivors with introspection, with compassion, with modesty, with respect, with awe.
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