On Sunday afternoon, a small section of Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard turned into the “Alley of Memory” – commemorating victims of Nazism during World War II and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
At the event organized by the Israeli Friends of Ukraine group, most of the 100 or so attendees came to express their support for peace, share personal stories and take a collective stand against violence.
Some printed out large-scale images of terrifying war scenes from Ukraine, demanding an end to the war. Others brought flowers, posters and flags to show their respect for those who are defending their country and fighting for freedom.
However, there were also some supporters present of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. This caused inevitable unrest among the crowd, with several verbal altercations and some red paint thrown at those backing the war.
Most present would agree on one thing, though: While this year marks 77 years since the victory over fascism in Europe, it also marked its rebirth.
Haaretz spoke to some of the people at the event to find out why they wanted to be there...
“I arrived from Kyiv just recently. My son lives here and I decided to immigrate because there was no point in taking refugee status. When my neighbor woke me up at 6:45 A.M. and said the war had begun [on February 24], it was impossible to believe. But then I heard the explosions.
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“In Kyiv, we always had Memorial Day on May 8 and on the 9th we were laying flowers at the eternal flame. But this year, I think it’s right our Supreme Council decided that May 9 will not be our holiday anymore. We will only have May 8: the day of remembrance of those who died and defended their homeland in World War II.
“We will have our own date for Victory Day – and no one doubts it is coming soon.”
“When a person says he marks this holiday as a day of mourning – excuse me? How can the day signaling the surrender of Nazi Germany be a cause for mourning? For us, this is a very difficult day but it’s the day of victory over fascism.
“I will support any military operation against a country where Nazism is cultivated. There is a street in Ukraine named after [Ukrainian nationalists] Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera. Dozens of monuments of Bandera were erected. These are men widely known for their Nazi worldviews.
“Not everyone in Ukraine is a Nazi – there are normal people there too. But Nazis took a huge number of people hostage, and how do we separate them? Is there only Hamas in Gaza? Likewise, in Ukraine we have no choice. There is a war going on. A war against Nazism.”
“May 8 is the international day of remembrance for those killed by Nazis and the day of reconciliation. We’re here to state that war is terrible, while May 9 turned into such a farce with [the Russian slogans] ‘We can do it again’ and ‘I remember.’ What can you do again? The horrors of the war? What do you remember? The war with its deaths, murder and tears? The same that we see in today’s photos from Ukraine.
“We are here in memory of those who died – then and now. My great-grandfather died in World War II and my friend died in Kharkiv. Twenty days after the shelling of the Kharkiv administration and Freedom Square, her body was found under the rubble.
“It is not yet a world war, but don’t forget that World War II began with the seizure of Poland. We wanted to show the pain and honor the memory, because for us May 8 is a memorial day and there is no Victory Day in our understanding.”