Israel Comes to a Standstill as Sirens Sound for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day, which began with an official ceremony at Yad Vashem on Wednesday night was marked with a siren sounding across Israel at 10 am Thursday morning.

People stand still as a two-minute siren marking Holocaust Remembrance Day is sounded in Jerusalem, May 5, 2016.
Ammar Awad, Reuters

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said that Holocaust survivors have never received the respect they deserve at the annual ceremony marking the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem..

"In another generation, there will not be anyone left living among us who survived that hell, and who could say, 'I was there, I saw the horror with my own eyes,'" Rivlin said.

"It is time to conduct some soul-searching before you. We must admit that we were wrong. Holocaust survivors have never received the respect they deserved. Even today, the State of Israel does not take every measure it can in order to take care of the Holocaust survivors."

"I came here today on behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the State of Israel, and I ask each and every one of you, before it is too late, for forgiveness."

Holocaust Remembrance Day began at 8 P.M. on Wednesday night with an official state ceremony marking at Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both addressed the ceremony.

For more on Holocaust Remembrance Day: What's the meaning of the siren on Holocaust Remembrance Day? | Thousands of Holocaust survivors still live in poverty | How survivors remember the Holocaust | Even in the gas chambers miracles can happen

In his address at the opening ceremony on Wednesday night,, Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced global anti-Semitism noting that before destroying the Jews, the Nazis slandered them. 

"Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews as well poisoners, " Netanyahu said. "Seventy-one years ago the Nazi regime was stopped, but the anti-Semitism and the lies didn't die with Hitler in the bunker in Berlin."

"Today millions of people in the Muslim world read and hear terrible lies about the Jewish people. They are told that the Jews are descendants of monkeys and pigs. They are told that Jews drink the blood of their enemies from goblets."

While the incitement originates in radical Islam and in the Arab world, Netanyahu said, "in recent years it has been joined by incitement that is no less poisonous from the Western world – British parliamentarians, senior Swedish officials and opinion makers in France."

Contemporary anti-Semitism has created some odd pairings, Netanyahu said. "The elites who represent human progress have partnered with barbaric fundamentalists, the persecutors of women and gays, destroyers of cultural treasures."

The ceremony also included the lighting of remembrance torches by Holocaust survivors, a reading from a remembrance book and the song "Someone," sung by Kobi Aflalo.