This week Holocaust survivor Mayer Hersh received an honorary degree, a Doctor of Education from Edge Hill University.
This was a fitting tribute to his dedication over many years to tell the story of his own experience of the Holocaust.
I attended a ceremony at Whitefield Synagogue in Manchester.
When it was Mayer’s turn to be called to reading desk there was an unforgettable moment when Chazan Muller and the choir sang a beautiful ‘yamod, literally, ‘stand up’, the usual formula for calling someone to the reading of the Torah. The entire congregation stood and clapped as Mayer was escorted to the bimah, now a stooped figure who needs a wheelchair to get about.
It seems that the years of abuse at the hands of his Nazi oppressors are finally catching up with him.
After the service several of the people he has inspired, Jews and non-Jews, spoke movingly about the work he has done for the last 30 years.
A video of Mayer’s receiving of his DEd. can be be seen in the first 30 minutes of the video at the end of this post.
I have known Mayer for about 20 years and I cherish that friendship. We even found that we are ‘landsleit‘ with my family coming from his home town.
I have previously written about a particular meeting with Mayer which is typical of the great man. You can read that here (My Friend, Dr Mengele). I said then that Mayer is a great man; as his physical stature shrinks, his moral stature seems to increase year by year.
“Recalling and telling my story is painful, but nevertheless I treasure the opportunity to do so because in so doing I am able to cherish and preserve the memory of my family and community; the pain of remembrance is my only link to them.”
When the last survivor has gone, we must all continue this ‘pain of remembrance’ on their behalf – for all time.
On Thursday this week I had the great privilege in attending the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) commemoration in Manchester.
There were 500 people present including several dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Manchester, the Bishop of Manchester and the Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy.
Most honoured of all were the handful of survivors who settled in Manchester and were fit enough to attend.
Sadly, as the years pass, the survivors become fewer. This is why Second Generation, an organisation headed by the indefatigable Tania Nelson, representing children of survivors, is so important. There is now a Third Generation for grandchildren.
My esteemed cousins in Israel, when I first met them six years ago (and that could be the subject of another blog) told me that I, too, am a survivor. I baulked at this. “How can I be a survivor? How can I merit that distinguished and honorific title? My parents were born in England and my grandparents came here a hundred years ago.” “You are a survivor, don’t argue. Every Jew who is still around after the Shoah is a survivor. You come from a family of survivors. We are so pleased to have found another part of our family surviving.”
This was a profoundly moving and proud moment for me. Ever since, I have taken their word for it. I may not be as worthy of the soubriquet as they are, but I look at the world as a survivor. A survivor who has a bounden duty to remember, to commemorate and, yes, even celebrate.
The theme of this year’s commemoration was The Righteous.
I have for many years had a special interest in Holocaust history and a very special interest in those Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews.
I have previously written about a dear friend (and “landsman”) of mine, Mayer Hersh, who has dedicated his life to Holocaust education.
Sir Martin Gilbert’s book The Righteous, which deals extensively with this subject, is a must-read for anyone with an interest in this moving subject. If you don’t have an interest, you should.
The presentation I attended dealt initially with those celebrated Righteous Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg
We heard again the story, now so familiar, of Schindler and the scene near the end of the Spielberg film where he wondered if he could have saved even more Jews if he had tried harder.
We also heard about Raoul Wallenberg, considered the greatest saviour of Jews, who used similar techniques to others in face of the Nazis: deceit, swagger and chutzpah.
As the Hungarian fascists, the Arrow Cross gleefully assisted the Germans in killing Jews by tying three together, killing the middle one and then pushing them into the freezing River Danube, Wallenberg organised doctors and heroic swimmers on the opposite bank to pull out as many as they could who had managed to get free. 50 souls out of many thousands were saved.
But the most moving story for me was that of the small Greek island of Zakynthos.
On September 9 1943 the Germans who were now occupying Greece and had deported to death camps the extensive Jewish populations of Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Athens turned on the small Jewish community of the idyllic island of Zakynthos.
The Nazis demanded that the mayor, Loukas Karrer, provide them immediately with a list of all the Jews on the island.
Karrer spoke to the metropolitan, Bishop Chrystosomos. The next day Karrer pleaded with Berenz, the German governor, to spare the Jews of the island. They had lived together with the Jews for many centuries. They were as Greek as everyone else.
Berenz (yimakh shemo ימח שמו – may his name be obliterated) insisted. Karrer then produced his list.
The list consisted of just two names – his own and that of Bishop Chrystosomos (zekher tzadik v’kadosh livrakha,
l’chayei ha’olam ha-ba זכר צדיק וקדוש לברכה לחיי העולם הבא – may the memory of the righteous and the saintly be a blessing in the world to come).
The Bishop had even written a letter to Hitler ימח שמו declaring the Jews of his island to be under his personal authority and, by implication, protection.
The governor sent the list and the letter to to Berlin to await orders. In the meantime Zakynthos’s 275 Jews were hidden across the island. The edict was later revoked and every Jew on the island survived the war.
I have known of this story for some time because I read an article in the Jerusalem Post just over two years ago. Leora Goldberg, an Israeli, was holidaying on Zakynthos when she stumbled upon its Jewish heritage. It was the following part of her story which I found extremely emotional:
A few days before I had planned to leave the island and return home, I went into a bank to convert some dollars into euros. But even in a simple place like a bank, I managed to add another piece to this Jewish puzzle.
A clerk who had been on the phone and eating a sandwich, called on me when my turn came. When I gave her my dollars to be changed, she handed me the converted money in an envelope without asking for any identification. Later on, when I opened it, I was surprised to see so much money. The money that had been put into the envelope had not been counted properly, and instead of changing $1,000, she had given me the equivalent of $10,000!
This was really no surprise to me, because the clerk hadn’t paid me any attention. Ultimately, however, once the bank realized that the money was missing, it would have no way of reaching me since no contact information was requested.
The following morning, I called the bank and asked to speak to the manager. I inquired to know if there was a problem with the previous night’s accounts. “You must be the woman with the dollars,” he said, immediately inviting me to his office.
An hour later, I was at the bank. When I walked into the office, the man sitting across from the manager moved to another chair and gave me his seat. I shared my bank experience with him, saying how easy it would have been for me to disappear with the money.
The manager himself was profusely apologetic about the unprofessional way I was treated and thanked me repeatedly for returning the money. To express his gratitude, he invited me and my family to dinner at an exclusive restaurant.
I explained that eating out was too complicated for us due to the fact that we were observant Jews. He asked for my address so he could send us a crate of wine. “That is a problem too,” I said. I told him I had come from Israel a week ago for a holiday, but had gotten sidetracked.
“A few days after I landed, I was surprised to discover the Jewish community that was here up to 25 years ago,” I said. “You don’t owe me anything. Indeed, you have given me and my people a lot. The least I can do as a Jew to show my appreciation for what you have done for the Jews of Zakynthos is to return this money that doesn’t belong to me and say, ‘Thank you!’”
There was silence for what appeared to be a long minute. The man who had given me his seat when I walked in and hadn’t said a word during the conversation, stood up with tears in his eyes, turned to me and said: “As the grandson of Mayor Karrer, I am extremely overwhelmed and want to thank you!”
Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrystosomos were honoured as Righteous among the Nations at Yad Vashem in 1978.
Where are our Schindlers and Wallenbergs today? Where our mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrystosomos whose memory is a blessing and inspiration? They do exist: Pilar Rahola, José María Aznar are two notables but Europe is abandoning the Jewish people for a second time it seems.
Back at the Yom HaShoah service we thanked the UK for being a haven from persecution when the Jews needed somewhere to run to.
But it wasn’t the Nazis most of our families were running from, it was the Russian pogroms and before them we have been deported from almost every country in Europe and massacred by the cossacks and the crusaders, Christians and Muslims.
When Jews arrived in British Mandate Palestine they were often turned back, and when the Nazi threat was a clear and present danger Jews were prevented from entering Palestine because of the sensitivities of the locals and to maintain the demographic balance even though thousands of Arabs flooded in unchecked from neighbouring areas.
Our gratitude to our host country is tempered by the memory of its broken promises and its craven concessions to Arab pressure, its abstention at the UN vote to recognise the State of Israel and the institutional anti-Semitism of many of its government departments.
Yet, throughout history, we have always had to be grateful for the smallest of mercies.
When Jews were given full citizenship and equal rights in the Enlightenment, that was to be the end of persecution. Liberté, égalité, fraternité were corrupted to their complete opposites: oppression, disenfranchisement and hatred.
Why do we so love and revere our saviours and supporters?.
Schindler’s grave is on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and those he saved and their descendants still go annually to pay their respects. His gravestone is permanently covered with the small stones placed as a sign of respect and gratitude by visitors from around the world, most of them Jews.
Schindler’s reward in Germany after the war was eventual poverty, somewhat self-inflicted. Jewish organisations kept him solvent at one time. When he died at the age of 66 his body was brought to Israel.
Wallenberg’s reward was to end up in some gulag and a likely early death.
How many countries other than Israel have honoured their great humanitarians who saved Jews?
In the UK Sir Nicholas Winton, sometimes referred to as the British Schindler, was only recognised years later thanks to Esther Rantzen.
Where will their monuments be? in Yad Vashem, in the Avenue of the Righteous, in the hearts of every Jew.
Why do we so value our saviours? Because we know from our history that we have so often been the victim and that gentile saviours are so rare that we embrace and thank them like brothers and sisters.
In Hebron in 1929 Muslims saved more than 400 Jews whilst 67 were slaughtered and all of the Jews were taken to safety by the British.
Wherever and whenever Jews were under attack from their neighbours in Europe or in the Muslim world there were always those who truly loved their neighbours, and if they didn’t love them, at least they had the nobility of spirit and the fire of justice which made them stand up against the iniquities of their own people and stand with the Jews.
Even today we have truly inspiring Muslims; Kaz Hafeez, Hasan Afzal and Khaled Abu Toameh who, in different ways stand up against Islamist injustice and seek truth, justice and, above all, feel compelled to express their fraternal human feelings for Jews inside and outside Israel.
Today there is a hideous conflation – anti-Israelism is a cover for anti-semitism; Zionist means Jew. Israel and its supporters are accused of behaving like Nazis, the most vile accusation possible to throw against Jews who stand up against lies and distortions – like the noble and brave Richard Millett who was recently vilified for daring to record and challenge the vile hypocrisy of a recent event at the SOAS.
This conflation confuses Jews who find that the policies of the Israeli government and the behaviour of some of its citizens problematical.
Good. Be outraged. Speak out against injustice, but don’t stand with those scientific anti-Semites with their high-powered electron microscopes poised over the Land of Israel, subjecting its every act and deed to a level of scrutiny no other country suffers, and then, when they find an alleged injustice, use it as testimony in pursuit of Israel’s destruction.
These critics of Israel and its supporters decide first that Israel must be destroyed. They insist that it is a misbegotten country, born in sin as an atonement for European Holocaust guilt. This is historically inaccurate and also ignores the role of ‘Palestinian’ Arabs who encouraged Hitler with promises of eradicating Jews from Palestine and even organised militia in Europe. I speak of Haj Amin al-Husseini.
They can never bring themselves to believe or recognise a single good thing about Israel or Israelis.
If the truth is too painful for them, if anything shows Israel in an unbearably good light, their cognitive dissonance gene kicks in and they obscenely invert the good and convert it to criticism to be used as a weapon to further their presumption of guilt and illegitimacy.
And if you are guilty you are barred from defending yourself militarily or legally. Every response to an attack is a provocation and every death of a terrorist a massacre.
Every act of international aid, like being the first to build a field hospital in Haiti after the earthquake or sending specialist equipment to Japan after its tsunami disaster, are seen as a cover-up for all its evil deeds at home.
A bastion of Gay Rights? Yeah, sure, just ‘pinkwashing’ to be used to cover up Human Rights abuses.
Even a theatre company should not perform in London because, uniquely, Israelis are worthy of boycott for complicity in the crime of ‘occupation’ which is not legally an occupation despite the accepted cosy narrative which so defines it.
Such narratives are essentially anti-Semitic. They abjure fair criticism and replace it with demonisation, delegitimisation, lies, distortions and hypocrisy. Some even want to create a second Holocaust (Hamas, Hizbollah, Ahmadinejad).
Others want to destroy Israel and create a state of Palestine from the River to the Sea without considering the fate of the Jews, not caring, or simply wanting to ‘send them back’. These narratives, too, are essentially anti-Semitic, denying Jews self-determination and wishing to replace a democracy (albeit a flawed one) with another Islamist state. These people are surely the spawn of the Nazis. Nazism has never disappeared, its spores had merely been hibernating waiting for an opportunity such as the new religion of Human Rights provides them.
Yom HaShoah tells us to learn the lessons of intolerance, it tells us that if we are not for ourselves then who is for us?
The Righteous gave us that answer; they stood up proud and firm and they spat squarely in the eyes of the Nazi oppressors.
Maybe they hated Nazis more than they loved Jews; maybe saving Jews was an act of resistance to the Nazis more than an act of love toward Jews.
I don’t care because the motivation led to the act and the act was often at the risk of the life of those who acted.
They may not always have had noble motivations but they achieved nobility and they sanctified the very meaning of what it is to be human.
At the lowest point in the history of mankind, and in the midst of the worst evil, in the face of the depraved officers of the Waffen SS or the Hungarian Arrow Cross, the Einsatzgruppen and the Kapos or confronting their own ancient prejudices and indifference, envy or jealousy, a few thousand stood up and said “NO”.
We the Jewish people will never forget you, and we will perpetuate your memory with love and gratitude.
Those who risked their life to save Jews during the Shoah are almost by definition extraordinary human beings.
One such is “Mademoiselle” Andree Geulen.
These ‘righteous among the nations’ are honoured in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem national Holocaust memorial.
I had not heard of Andree Geulen before. I have now.
She has just celebrated her 90th birthday,
I defy you not to shed a tear when you watch and listen to this amazing tribute to her.
Very few of us have the opportunity or good fortune in our lives to meet, let alone to know, someone who is a truly great human being. Certainly someone like me, of only modest talents, whose life and profession do not lead to encounters with politicians, media stars or the literary Illuminati, would put himself in the category of ‘ordinary person’.
Oh, I’ve met a few celebrities in my time, I even have one in the family, but there is only one person, one great man, with whom I have the honour and privilege of acquaintance.
His name is Mayer Hersh.
He is a Holocaust survivor.
The vagaries of chance, or fate, if you will, led us to meet some 15 years ago, or was it 20? He was a friend of my wife’s cousin and someone you ‘saw around’. I knew very little of his story. We struck up a conversation because I discovered he was Polish and I asked him to translate the writing on the back of some old family photographs.
Soon he told me he came from a town called Sieradz, in Western Poland, which happened to be the next town to Kalisz where three of my grandparents had been born.
Many years later, by careful research and amazing good fortune, I had managed to contact my father’s mother’s family in Israel. To my surprise I discovered that many of them had lived in Sieradz. When I told Mayer he declared us to be ‘landsleit’, an appellation that I carry with pride to this day.
As I related to Mayer what I knew of my new-found family in Israel, he asked me my family’s name. “Szer”, I said. “Szer the baker?”, he asked. My spine turned to ice. The thought that Mayer may have known, or passed in the street, members of my family was incredible. Although I found out later that this Szer was probably a great great uncle or a cousin, nevertheless I had found an unexpected connection which certainly reinforced our landsleit status.
Mayer told me how, as a child, he had an argument with his mother and, being somewhat stubborn, decided to ‘leave home’. This excursion did not last long and he skulked back to sleep on the stairwell. In the morning he was famished and went across to Szer the baker. Mr Szer took pity and gave him a bagel even though he had no money to pay. “Ok”, I said, “Cough up. On behalf of my family you owe me for that bagel!”.
Mayer Hersh was born in Sieradz, Poland, in 1926. When the Germans arrived in his town at the beginning of World War II, he and his brother Jakob were eventually parted from their parents and siblings and extended family. They never saw any of them again.
Mayer was 13 years old as he began his obscene odyssey through the horrors of the Holocaust where he witnessed murder, brutality, even cannibalism.
He experienced nine camps including Otoczna, Auschwitz, Stutthof, Gotha, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt where he was eventually liberated in 1945.
He was in Auschwitz for 18 months and, amazingly, met his brother there. Jakob also survived the war, eventually emigrating to the United States.
It was only after the war he discovered the terrible fate of his parents and sister Kayla.
Unable to return home he became one of “The Boys” of whom Martin Gilbert wrote, and found himself in Ambleside in Cumbria. He eventually settled in Manchester where he took up the profession of his father and became a tailor.
Mayer, as one would expect of someone of his profession, is a smartly dressed, dapper, compact man, softly-spoken with a distinct Polish accent and a command of the English language which is staggering.
Despite his life experiences, Mayer is humble and modest and he has devoted the past 30 years to Holocaust Education, telling his story at schools, giving interviews, receiving accolades. He tells his story simply, dispassionately, quietly but profoundly and with a determination to fulfil his purpose and mission: to consecrate memory.
Talking to Mayer is always a pleasure and a privilege. Recently, we sat next to each other at a family celebration. Mayer is in short sleeves, his tattooed number looking somehow less incongruous in these days of fashionable tattoos. Conversation with Mayer can take unexpected paths. This was one such occasion. He was telling me about how a friend of his was surprised that he had maintained a friendship with someone with whom he had had a dispute. “Why shouldn’t I be friends? Dr Mengele was my friend. He saved my life many times”, he said.
Mayer then told me how Mengele, that murderer of children, that antithesis and negation of the very word ‘Doctor’, would choose daily who was fit to work and who would go to the gas. “I don’t know why he never chose me. Dr Mengele was my friend because he kept me alive” .
The very idea that I was just one remove from these experiences was chilling and profoundly moving. Mayer is testament to the obscenity of the randomness of survival.
What is greatness? Is it measured by fame or wealth or academic achievement or sporting prowess only? Or is it also to be found in the quiet but steely determination of one man to survive, to claim and proclaim his right to life, to dignity and respect. This too, surely, is greatness.
Mayer Hersh is a great man.
I wrote that Mayer is also an eloquent man. At the end of an interview with a Guardian reporter in January 2005 he described his ‘fulfilment’. I’ll end with Mayer’s words. In this one, heartbreaking paragraph he manages to condense every word, every book, every history of the Holocaust. A thousand Ahmadinejads or Irvings cannot unsay these words, these thoughts, these truths. No more eloquent expression could possibly be written of what motivates Mayer and should inspire us all to continue his life’s work.
“In 1944 I was daydreaming – when I had a chance to daydream – that maybe I’ll get through and survive, knowing by that time that not many people will. I thought how wonderful it would be if I do survive, how people will put me on a pedestal. You know how the childish mind works. Well, I am on a pedestal, I am given certain honours, you come to interview me. To me, this is a fulfilment. But why is it a fulfilment? Because I’m talking about my family, whose lives were extinguished and whose voices were obliterated. The perpetrators also wanted the memory of these people to be obliterated, and that’s something I don’t want to happen. I want their memory to be preserved for eternity.”
See Memories of Auschwitz, Guardian January 27th 2005
From Auschwitz to Ambleside at www.anotherspace.org.uk
That nice Mr Ahmadinejad from Iran is at it again.
Having found himself in hot water at home because of accusations of a rigged election, he has apparently sought to unite the people against, you guessed it, the Jews.
His latest Holocaust denial came on Quds (Jerusalem) Day:
He is reported to have said:
“[The Holocaust] a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim”.
He also repeated the canard that the Zionist entity (Israel) was created as a result of this supposed lie.
Not only is this historically illiterate (and this faulty historical narrative can be heard in many places, not just in the Middle East) but he and those like him are attempting to create another Holocaust. But this time it isn’t the physical extermination of the Jewish people (although that is a much desired outcome for Hamas and Hizbollah to name the prinicpal culprits) but this time the Holocaust will begin with the extermination of Jewish history.
Anyone who knows anything about the Jewish people will know that history is central to identity. This is true of most nations but for Jews it defines them even more deeply because for 2000 years they were scattered across the nations of the world with only their history to unite them.
That history was not just one of persecution, migration and expulsion but also a history of yearning for a return to the Land, to the holy city of Jerusalem whose importance in history is solely due to its Jewish history. Without the connection to the Land, to Israel and Jerusalem there would be no Jewish people at all. Look at Jewish liturgy: the Torah, the three daily services, literature, poetry, art.
The Jews and their ancestral land have always been two sides of the same history: the People and the Land.
Now you can argue, and I’m sure you will, about the right to that land today and it’s an argument of history that is a valid one to discuss. And it should be because there are so many lies and misconceptions about the Jews’ return to the Land.
But if you accept that, whatever you may think of Israel and the events of the last sixty or hundred years, that Judaism and the Jewish soul identify completely with that land, (and it is a spiritual as well as a religious and historical connection), then you will see that to deny that connection in effect denies the existence of the Jewish People and its right to exist; to exist anywhere, not just in Israel.
And this is what Ahmadinejad does, but it is also what is taught in the Middle East; not just by the perverted purveyors of hatred that are known as Hamas and Hizbollah but by clerics, publishers, academics, politicians, archaeologists, teachers and broadcasters across the Middle East. They daily trot out lies which deny that Jeruslaem was the site of the two Jewish Temples, deny any Jewish connection whatsoever to the Land and characterise the Israelis and, therefore, of course, all Jews, as part of a (Zionist) plot to deprive them, the Palestinians and the Muslim umma in general, of their land. And part of this ruse perpetrated originally by a few hundred thousand Jews was to fabricate or exaggerate their own suffering to prick the conscience of those who persecuted them, or allowed them to be persecuted, and thereby allow them to steal the Land. That ruse, they claim, was the Holocaust.
And don’t take this lightly. because those who deny history – the ‘history deniers’ (Richard Dawkins uses this term in rather a different context in his latest book) who use it now against the Jews will and, in fact, do use it against everyone else. They denigrate and deny others’ holy books whilst being ready to kill the denigrators of their own, they deny what happened on 9/11 whilst in a breathtaking example of double-think and hyprocisy, celebrate it as a victory over the Zionists who they also say carried it out!
Mahmoud Abbas wrote his doctoral thesis on the Holocaust and you won’t be surpised to find that he found it was a lie.
You can get a flavour of it here: http://www.pmw.org.il/holocaust.htm which shows very starkly that the oh so moderate Palestinian Authority is Holocaust-denying to its rotten core.
So Ahmadinejad is not alone. He is part of a vast army of Muslims who actively seek to deny Jews their history, any land whatsoever and in some cases, their lives. And it is widespread because it is promulgated and taught not just in the Middle East but across the world.
Two events happened recently in Israel which in their own strange way debunk some myths about how Israelis treat Palestinians, especially Israeli Arab, and how Palestinians view Israelis.
First story in Ha’aretz: Violent settlers freed over ‘improper’ police conduct.
Apparently Israeli police in Kfar Sava have been using entrapment; not against Palestinians but against Israeli Jewish settlers.
The story does not show either the settlers or the police in a particularly good light.
The police posed as Palestinians in an illegal West Bank settlement. Note that it is designated illegal by Ha’aretz. Others would disagree. The police were pretending to fix a tyre. Now, if you remember, recently two policeman were killed by Palestinians they went to help who were pretending to fix a puncture. (This itself says something of the dangers of being ‘nice’ to Palestinians when a minority are prepared to kill you for it.) The settlers attacked the police who they thought were Palestinians and vandalised the (unmarked police) car. The police promptly arrested them.
The settlers were freed because of the provocation. The police were reprimanded by a judge for endangering life recklessly – their own.
Now although this is somewhat unsavoury the police were acting to protect Palestinians from extremist Jewish settlers by provoking them to expose themselves by this ruse. When do we hear about such things in the UK press? Most would find it unbelievable that Israeli police are trying to root out extremist Jews to protect Palestinians in the West Bank.
Police sources told Ha’aretz that the technique is established and effective when it comes to the arrest of settlers involved in attacking Palestinians.
says Ha’aretz. Sometimes, despite the attempts to characterise Israelis as ethnic cleansers, apartheid-mongers and worse, stories like this show us that things are not as black and white as you might think. Despite the dubious nature of the strategy it puts the police in a positive light, don’t you think?
Second an Associated Press story on yNetNews.com:
A Palestinian youth orchestra from Jenin travelled to Holon in Israel to sing and perform for Holocaust survivors. Just read that sentence again.
Strings for Peace, youth orchestra from Jenin refugee camp, gives touching musical performance for Holocaust survivors in Israeli town Holon as part of Good Deeds Day. Zeid, one of musicians in group: Only people who have been through suffering understand each other….
the youths had no idea they were performing for people who lived through Nazi genocide — or even what the Holocaust was.
One of the pupils expressed sympathy and was shocked at learning the story of the elderly survivors. Some had never met ordinary Israelis before. The Holocaust is not taught to Palestinians and Denial is commonplace.
The audience were shocked when they learned the youths were from Jenin but when it was announced they would sing for peace the audience burst into applause.
“I’m here to raise spirits,” Younis [the conductor] said. “These are poor, old people.”
If only there were more events like this to bring these two peoples together. It should be noted that this event was part of a programme organised by Shari Arison, a wealthy Israeli business woman as part of the annual Good Deeds Day events.
Bishop Williamson is back. He has a lot of reading to do about the Holocaust. He did promise to find out more about the subject. We await his conclusions with interest.
Meanwhile he showed decidedly un-Christian behaviour as he left Argentina pushing his fist into the face of a persistent reporter and then shoving him into a pillar. Where’s the other cheek Bishop Williamson? Where’s forgiveness? It’s straight to the confessional, I fear.