On Tuesday, Israel's oldest Knesset member is set to lead Tuesday, for the first time in his life, the March of the Living at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Overall, about 8,000 youths from Israel and abroad will take part in the annual march.
Peres in Poland (Photo: AP)
A few hours before the event, Peres told Ynet "I'm traveling on the road to Krakow and I'm imaging what we could have done had the State of Israel existed at the time…the lesson we mustn't forget is that although we should respect the world, we must remain strong and ensure the Jewish people's safety."
"You land on Polish soil and suddenly you're embroiled in an emotional storm," Peres added. "My entire life was dedicated so that we Jews and the people of Israel would not be led like sheep to the slaughter. The moment you are here on such day, your Jewish feeling is very deep."
"From here I see my children, who live in a free and strong country, and I'm grateful for having the State of Israel," he said.
'Touched by teenagers'
Peres said he visited Auschwitz in the past, but this is the first time he will take place in the March of the Living.
"I’m very touched by the thousands of Jewish teenagers and Israeli flags everywhere," he said. "When I see this with my own eyes on this day, and at the same time I hear Iranian President Ahmadinejad uttering his terrible words of hate, I cannot rest," he added. "I realize it's not over. I discover that those terrible demons are still living with us and are attempting to develop lethal weapons to exterminate us."
"On this day I'm an unsettled Jew," Peres said. "We're fortunate to have our own country. We're comforted by the fact we managed to establish a powerful country that can defend its citizens and the Jews of the world."
Overall, 11 Israeli delegations comprising 1,750 students will take part in the March of the Living in Poland. Some delegation members took part in a ceremony in Krakow, and tomorrow will March from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
Most of the delegations that arrived in Poland are from the periphery: Beit Shaan, Mitzpe Ramon, Akko, and other areas. Education Ministry official Yossi Levi who is in Poland said: "Today's meetings were held between Israelis and Poles and it was very special and moving. 1,500 Polish students will arrive in Auschwitz tomorrow to take part in the march. We are working with them and cooperating."
Moran Zelikovitch contributed to the report