What the Yom HaShoah Siren Means to Israelis
JNS.org – Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. At 10 a.m. all throughout Israel, a countrywide air-raid siren wails. That sound is alarming and too familiar for many Israelis — it is the same air-raid siren that alerts communities of falling rockets, urging them to take cover.
In the summer of 2014, I ran to the bomb shelter countless times at the onset of this siren. When I returned back to the US, I found that my dad made his phone alarm an air-raid siren, unbeknownst to him how similar it was to the siren in Israel. Whenever the phone alarm went off, my stomach would drop as if I were in a roller coaster, plunging downward. And that was my reaction just from being in Israel for a few months during a war. Imagine what native Israelis feel, especially those in the south who have only 10 seconds to run for cover when they hear this sound.
When Israelis hear the alarm on Yom HaShoah, everyone understands that it is not a rocket alarm. Cars on the road come to a halt. People stop what they are doing and listen. The siren, although it sounds the same, has a very different call to action than the terrorism siren. But one must wonder, can we truly separate these two sirens?
The Holocaust was about scapegoating, about blaming the Jewish people for society’s problems. Economy not doing well? It’s because the Jews take the jobs and commit usury. Disease spreading? It’s because the Jews act as carriers for diseases. Simply put, any misfortunes were because of the Jews. Jews were even blamed for opposite things at the same time. Jews are both pacifists yet war-mongers, inferior yet dominating, capitalist exploiters yet revolutionary communists, and primitive yet successful. These were the problems that the Nazis saw, and their final solution was genocide of a people.
People still believe that Jews are to blame for these things, and now you can add “oppressors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” to that list. Why? Because when Hamas and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, continuously shoot rockets toward Israel, the Jewish state reacts. When Israeli civilians are stabbed to death, children wet their beds from PTSD, families are killed in their own homes, boys are kidnapped and shot dead, pregnant women and children are run over by a car — Israel reacts.
Even though the Jewish army has been called “the most moral army in the world” and is an unprecedented protector of human rights inside and outside of Israel, the UN still condemns Israel as the biggest human rights violator. That, my friend, is called scapegoating.
So every Yom HaShoah, when the siren wails, Israelis are reminded of history two-fold: The history of the Holocaust that nearly exterminated the Jewish people, and the more current history of terrorism against Israel while Europe largely turns a blind eye. I cannot count how many times I have heard “Jews need to get over the Holocaust” from both Jews and non-Jews alike. After all, they say, a just society cannot be built on fear. This idea has always struck me as fair, but naïve. When the Israeli people see anti-Israel propaganda so similar to Nazi propaganda, that connection between the people who want to destroy them is perpetuated. When today’s Israeli people hear “death to the Jews” and the same epithets that the Jewish people heard at the onset of the Holocaust, the connection is cemented. From the Israeli perspective, to ask the Jewish people to deny the connection between the threats against them in the 1930s and the current threats is asking them to risk their own existence by trusting those who openly state their intentions to wipe them out. It precisely goes against the vow, “Never Again.”
Thus, when Israelis hear the Yom HaShoah siren, the message is this: We must look to the past to remember the victims of the Holocaust, which is inextricably tied to ensuring a future in which the Jewish people are never massacred again.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.