There are at least eight fascinating Holocaust memorials in Israel, which commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust all year round. In 2019 Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day on May 1-2 will focus on the theme “The War Within the War: the Struggle of the Jews to Survive During the Holocaust”. Known as Yom HaShoah in Hebrew, it is a national day of commemoration for the six million Jews murdered in Europe during the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremonies
This annual Memorial Day starts on the preceding evening with ceremonies on Wednesday May 1 at 8.00pm. That evening, places of entertainment and restaurants will be closed throughout the country. The main national ceremony takes place at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, together with dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families. Six Holocaust survivors are honored with lighting the six torches that represent the six million murdered Jews. This moving ceremony is broadcast live on TV and also live-streamed online in English and Hebrew here.
On Thursday morning May 2, a second ceremony will begin with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the siren, work is halted throughout Israel as a mark of respect for all of those killed during the Holocaust. People stop walking in the streets, cars and buses pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention to remember the victims of the Holocaust. It is a moving sight to witness, and a rare occasion of national unity, which is matched almost one week later on National Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror.
Throughout the day, both the television and radio broadcast programs about the Holocaust. Many schools and youth organizations bring groups of students to visit the various sites around Israel that are associated with the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorials in Israel
Israel’s main Holocaust Museum is Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Visiting this museum is an important feature of any tour of Israel, and all visiting Heads of State come here to lay wreaths on behalf of their countries.
There are a number of other sites that commemorate the Holocaust in Israel, and they also host memorial ceremonies on Yom HaShoah. The Ghetto Fighters’ House on Kibbutz Lochmei HaGettaot – also known as the Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum – was founded by Holocaust survivors in 1949 to tell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It emphasizes the bravery and the incredible ability of Holocaust survivors and the fighters of the revolt to rebuild their lives in the nascent State of Israel.
The survivors who built this flourishing kibbutz in the Galilee also established the museum and the adjoining Center for Humanistic Education, whose goal is to share knowledge and understanding of the events that took place during the Holocaust through dialogue and joint learning. It hosts multi-cultural gatherings to discuss the universal meaning of the Holocaust both within and beyond Israeli society.
The Yad Layeled Children’s Memorial Museum was established at the Ghetto Fighters’ House in 1995 to commemorate the memory of the Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust. This museum is designed to help young visitors to understand the lives of the children who lived during the Holocaust, providing an experiential venue to explore the subject of the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way.
The Chamber of the Holocaust was opened in 1949 as a religious memorial close to the Old City of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, adjoining the Tomb of King David. It is maintained by the students of the Diaspora Yeshiva and offers a place of prayer and solace to the families of those who perished. On its walls are 1,300 plaques commemorating the different shtetls and cities whose Jews were murdered. Its exhibits also include artefacts from these communities from before the Shoah and during the years of horror, telling the story of destruction and the indomitable Jewish spirit of survival.
Kibbutz Yad Mordechai near Ashkelon was actually established in 1943 by members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement from Poland. It was renamed after the Holocaust in memory of Mordechai Anielewicz, the commander of the Jewish fighting force during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. They established the “From Holocaust to Revival Museum” to commemorate Jewish resistance against the Nazis. (The kibbutz is also known for producing the Yad Mordechai honey, jam and olive oil brands and its honey museum is also worth a visit!)
The Holocaust Martyrs Forest and Anne Frank Memorial Park in the Jerusalem Hills was created by KKL-JNF together with World B’nai Brith. Its 6 million trees are a silent, powerful and natural memorial to the six million Jews who were killed. At its heart is the “Scrolls of Fire” memorial created by the sculptor Nathan Rapaport to chronicle the events of the Holocaust in Europe and the revival of the State of Israel. There is also a memorial to Anne Frank, created by designer Piet Cohen, in the form of a room made from rusted steel (pictured above). From the stool in the corner of the structure you can see an engraved image of the famed chestnut tree which Anne Frank could see when she wrote her diary during her long years in hiding. In 1960, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, planted the first tree in KKL-JNF’s Anne Frank Memorial Park. Every year on Holocaust Day, JNF-KKL and Bnai Brith hold a memorial ceremony in this forest.
Another little-known forest memorial is the Zaglembie Martyrs Memorial, which commemorates the extermination of thousands of Jews from the Zagłęmbie region of south west Poland. Every year on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of Zaglembie survivors and descendants gather at this impressive stone memorial in the Ben Shemen Forest near Modiin.
If you would like to include one of these Holocaust Memorials or Museums in your next visit to Israel, talk to the experts at Shatour Israel about customizing your itinerary.