Hear O Israel - but Israel Does Not Hear

Of all the stains on Israel's distorted face, this is the ugliest. It is not a birthmark, for when it was born - so the story goes - it was quite a pretty baby, whose face used to light up.

Did the Holocaust speed up the state's birth? Very probably. The Holocaust's survivors, however, who reached the land of their fathers, did not find peace for their souls. Hear O Israel, but Israel hears nothing. There is no one to scold or castigate us, because the partly burned embers that survived the furnace are ours alone.

A year ago, I published a book about a little boy, who was four when the extermination camp's gates closed on him, and five when they opened. I told the story of Peter (nicknamed "Pepicek") in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Peter and Mengele the wolf, who conducted human experiments on him. Yesterday Peter Greenfeld told Maariv that he could not afford to buy medicine. Peter is no longer a child. He is 67 years old, lives in Ashkelon and the state has no cure for his ailments. It has no money, it pleads, the rich nation that kicks its weak.

For eight months, Pepicek was trapped like a rabbit in Mengele's block. He remembers the injections in his back, which caused pains he still suffers from today, forcing him to use a walking stick. He remembers the drops in both eyes - who knows what blinded his left eye; he remembers the needle that penetrated his brain - what did they want to insert, what did they want to take out? And he has no teeth, because after he lost his baby teeth, new ones did not grow in their place.

The mechanism of not-forgetting, which like baby teeth precedes the fixed mechanism of memory, still gives him nightmares: a very large room with a very clean bed and a very white sheet, and all kinds of instruments on the table, especially large syringes.

But his country has no money for his eyes and teeth and back, and no money in the world could cure or allay his nightmares. Had he emigrated to Germany after the war, he would not be a beggar now.

There are no Holocaust deniers in Israel, but there are Holocaust forgetters. Its living victims are forgotten. Only the dead are remembered and commemorated, because remembering the dead has no price tag and the Finance Ministry does not have to budget it.

Israel always knew that Pepicek and his friends could be relied on: They survived Hitler, they'll survive this too. In any case, they are growing fewer in number - time will succeed where extermination failed - and in a few years, the problem will solve itself naturally.

Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, they will be invited, the last remnants, to take part in all the rallies and processions and again give their testimony. If, just for once, we all rejected the invitations, boycotted the ceremonies and left officials standing alone, they would come to their senses and find some loose change in their over-stuffed pockets. If, just for once, the March of Life stood still, the self-important ones might invest more in life and less in marches. When will we finally help the Holocaust survivors to walk without a cane in the march of life and not stumble along, bent like beggars, in the parade of pennies?

Day and night they keep proclaiming that Israel is the Jewish State. How is it Jewish, exactly? In its Jewish head? Or its Jewish heart? Israel does not deserve to be called Jewish so long as four-year-old orphan Pepicek has no teeth and no hope in his heart.