Israel's leadership gathered at Yad Vashem Sunday night at the state ceremony in honor of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Monday morning, as every year, a siren will be sounded across the nation, calling for two minutes of silence in memory of the victims.
This year, there is a special emphasis on the few Holocaust survivors still living. Echoing this, is the traditional emphasis of the importance of the Jewish nation to fight against racism, and survive.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a keynote speaker at the ceremony, warned of those who "had not yet learned the lesson the Holocaust. Many gather at respectable academic institutions, with hatred of Israel blinding them."
"Most of the world population is aware of the Holocaust and aware of the evil agenda of Holocaust deniers," he said.
"They withhold from the Jewish people the right to a sovereign state. They are the first to find an excuse for any atrocity committed against Israeli civilians and the loudest in censuring defensive operations of the State of Israel."
The ceremony at Yad Vashem (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
"Here, in the State of Israel, we shall build a society that is the complete opposite of the agenda of evil that sought to destroy us. We shall uproot any form of discrimination, any shred of racism, extremism and xenophobia. This is our historic duty and the call of Israel's conscience," Olmert added.
Yad Vashem Committee Chairman Tommy Lapid echoed these sentiments, noting "(Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad thinks six million Jews are not enough."
"The world advises us to be compromising, to take risks for peace. What will they do if the other side doesn't behave as they desire? Will they say, sorry, we were wrong?" Lapid continued. "Our message to the world is: Think about the Holocaust, because we think of it every day."
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gabi Ashkenazi also tied together past and present Jewish struggles for survival, saying "the fighters in the ghetto and the partisans are an inspiration for Israeli military commanders."
Yet, despite historic associations, speakers at the ceremony also emphasized the unique and unfathomable horrors of the Holocaust.
"Even a thousand years are not enough to explain Treblinka," said Acting President Dalia Itzik. "There are no words and no language to explain it."