On the night of November 9, 1938, tens of thousands of Jews woke up from their sleep in Germany and Austria to the screams of SS members who raided their homes, burned the synagogues and destroyed the shops they owned. Dozens of Jews were murdered in the Kristallnacht pogrom, children were evacuated from their homes to safe havens and tens of thousands of men were sent to concentration camps in Germany.
85 years later, on the morning of Shabbat and the holiday of Simchat Torah, 1,400 Israelis were murdered in their homes, others experienced severe abuse and 240 were taken hostage, all this - in their homes, in their safe place, within the borders of the state we established after we swore "never again."
Since its foundation, I have led the March of the Living, and every year I meet thousands of teenagers, who, like every human being, find it hard to grasp the dimensions of the horror of the Holocaust. How could they imagine such a large-scale atrocity that almost resulted in the end the Jewish people? How could they understand what it feels like to lose all their relatives, near and distant ones, and to live under persecution and danger for years?
Unfortunately, this year, the March of the Living will take on an additional meaning. It no longer involves the horrors of the past, but also the unimaginable pogrom atrocities that happen in the present, while the two are being intermingled. This is a constant reminder of the existential threat stemming from hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism.
This year, the youth, like all of us, had to be reminded why preserving the memory of the Holocaust is important even in 2023 and forever. International support for the right of the State of Israel to defend itself has been replaced by a wave of murky and harsh anti-Semitism.
Signs are calling to "cleanse the world of Jews", unknown people set fire to the Jewish part of the Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria, a Star of David is sprayed on the walls of houses in Paris and there is a 500% increase in the number of anti-Semitism incidents, compared to the same period last year. The machine of hatred that was built and improved already in 1933 by the Nazi regime has not stopped, on the contrary, it is upgrading.
In view of the abysmal hatred that has erupted and is running rampant throughout the world, our mission now is more important than ever. We will continue to act so that every teenager, and every adult who will attend the March of the Living, will actively work against anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance. We believe that learning about the Holocaust and its lessons are essential to treating the epidemic of hatred which is a threat not only to the Jewish communities but to society as a whole.
As the decree of the Holocaust survivors who managed with tremendous mental strength to immigrate to Israel and establish homes and families, we must rise from the present abyss and together with the Jewish communities and other diverse bodies from around the world, continue to teach, educate, and fight the anti-Semitic war, with our head held high.