The official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day began at 8 P.M. on Wednesday night, at Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, marking 70 years since end of World War Two.
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President Reuben Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both addressed the ceremony.
In his address, Netanyahu spoke of the framework agreement reached with Iran and called for the dismantling of the Islamic Republic's nuclear activity. "This bad agreement with Iran teaches that the lesson of history has not been internalized in the face of Iran's aggressive activities," Netanyahu said. "The West is giving up instead of demanding that a significant dismantling of Iran's nuclear capability and condition the lifting of the sanctions. The powers are retreating, they are leaving Iran with its nuclear capabilities and even allow it to expand them in the future, its activities in the Middle East notwithstanding.
"In the face of tiredness and in the face of weakness, we will stand as forcefully as we can," Netanyahu added. "Next to those who refuse to understand our stance, there are many who do identify with us. But even if we are forced to stand alone, we will not be afraid – in every scenario, in every situation, we will preserve out right, we will preserve our capability and our determination to defend ourselves."
"Seventy years ago, we were a nation of helpless refugees – today we can speak for ourselves. We are determined to ensure our existence and our future. Our job is to fight those who want to destroy us we will not allow the State of Israel to become a fleeting episode in the history of our people," Netanyahu said.
Rivlin opened his address by saying: "We will not give in to threats, we will not give into shameful declarations calling for the obliteration of the Jewish people, and also – we are not afraid. The threat of the past will not underwrite our lives."
Speaking to the survivors of the Holocaust, Rivlin said: "In our harrowing journey, you were the pillar of fire that led us forward. You, who found the strength to rise above the ashes and the ovens, taught us to choose life. You, who loved and laughed, who built your own homes and a national home, you led our entire nation."
"Each and every one of us has a number on his arm, but at the same time, in the same breath, we remember that we do not come from Auschwitz and we will not return to Auschwitz," Rivlin said. "The Holocaust was a point of terror in humanity, but the Jewish journey does not start there, and it doesn't end there. The Jewish journey begins in Israel."
At a separate ceremony at the Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust at
Kibbutz Tel-Yitzhak, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said: "Seventy years later, and there are still those who seek to harm us, and even call openly for our annihilation, the people
who live here and Jews throughout the world." He said Iran's regime "aims to upset the world order. It does not stray from its goal of developing nuclear weapons, and will not hesitate to vent its wrath if it only gains the ability to do so."
Referring to the nuclear agreement being negotiated between Iran and the world powers, Ya'alon said, "The world is allowing this regime to enter the family of nations through the front door, instead of learning from the past and casting it out. I say this, too, to our greatest friends in the world: It is still not too late to bring this regime to a point where it will have no choice but to give up its nefarious project."
Ya'alon added that Israel must "wage ceaseless battle against racism and violence, against attacks on other people just because they are different from them, against discrimination against women and minorities. Israel must guard equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation."
The country comes to a standstill each year for Holocaust Remembrance Day, with shops closed and television stations broadcasting only material related to the memorial day itself. A siren will be sounded across the country at 10 A.M. on Thursday morning.
The Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers is held a week later, on Tuesday night, followed immediately by Independence Day on Wednesday night.
There are 189,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, 45,000 of them living in poverty, the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims says in its annual report.
Two-thirds of survivors are women, with one-third of survivors overall living on their own without help. Their average age is 83.3.