Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Roger Waters, Carlos Santana, the Pixies are just a few of a long list of artists who gave in to political pressure and cancelled their scheduled performances in Israel in the past few years. After receiving threats of an artistic boycott by anti-Israeli groups, they were publicly called to avoid coming to this “horrible” place. Those artists joined the cultural boycott of Israel, which was organized by our haters, and that its outcomes are worse than any hostile news report. Those artists helped to put Israel in cultural solitude, simply because they were too afraid of criticism, and managed to bring politics to the universal language: music.
While some caved into the pressure, there are several reasonable, confident, true musicians, who don’t care what people think: they are here to make music. Here, in Israel, we don’t listen to Israeli music only, but rather enjoy international music, mostly American and British. I, myself, am a huge Elton John fan, and when he announced his arrival to Israel, I was almost hospitalized. Shortly after the announcement, the pressure reared its ugly head. Up until the day of the performance, I, along with 40 thousand ticket purchasers, had no idea if we will be able to have the night of our life, or receive a refund. The wait was nerve-wracking. Every week in the four months from the announcement to the performance, new conflicted reports were published. I was certain he would cave, for the fans are the most important thing for my good friend, Elton. But he didn’t disappoint, and played for us like never before.
June 17th, 2010. I’ve been waiting for this night my entire life, and this is why even four months after purchasing my ticket, I still couldn’t believe where I was. Ramat Gan stadium, at night, just me and my 40 thousand best friends. At 8:45 pm, almost too early in Israeli time, the lights went off, and as the late comers were still trying to find their seats, the band members took their places on stage. The youngest amongst them is a 50 year old pretty-boy keyboard player. The eldest, wearing a flannel shirt showing a wrinkled, hairy chest, was obviously not self-conscious. Two minutes of instrumental intro reached its climax when King John took his place by the piano. He was short, fat, and looked more like my grandfather than a rock legend, but when his fingers touched the keys, the world ceased from spinning. It seemed like everything negative or wrong in the world simply faded away. There were no wars, no global warming, no politics. The world became the notes that came out of John’s piano. At that moment, before even performing the first song, I found myself tearing up. I was overwhelmed both by the existence of this concer, and by the amazing force of each note. The gentle vibration in his rusty voice, along with unbelievable improvisations, cast a spell on me.
His voice is not the same, no doubt, and the high tones are hard to accomplish, but sir Elton Hercules John knows he can trust his audience. Almost as if it was prepared in advance, 40 thousand people sang “Roooooaaaadddd aaaaahhhhh” in perfect pitch. He knows how to get the recognition he deserves. At the end of each song, he leaves his comfort zone by the piano, reaches the center of the stage, and bows to the roaring audience, while mumbling “thank you. I love you”. Other than that, he doesn’t talk much, and let the songs speak on his behalf. Unlike most performing artists, he doesn’t tell the stories behind the songs, nor personal stories of any kind. He doesn’t need to. It is a shame to waste music-time. Nevertheless, there was one monologue on which he didn’t skip. Prior to his arrival, just like before any musician’s arrival to Israel, there was a lot of pressure on him to cancel his performance. Anti-Israeli groups called on him to join a cultural boycott on Israel. This type of pressure took down many musicians who were supposed to come here, but not John. To the sound of 80 thousand hands clapping and 40 thousand mouths whistling, he announced that no one can stop him from coming to Israel, and that it is the purpose of music to bring people together. Just like that, he managed to top the pure beauty of the music he makes.
Despite being a huge Elton fan, there were some songs I didn’t recognize. It didn’t matter. I was caught up by each note, as my heart pounded like crazy. The energy trough the audience was un-Israeli and somewhat mellow, but when he started playing “Benny and the Jets”, some sparks of energy started to go through the seats. When he started playing “I’m Still Standing”, there was no warm seat left. Everyone was on their feet, jumping and singing the lyrics which best describes John. Two and a half hours felt like ten minutes to me. Two and a half hours of musical combinations which made both my body and soul shake with thrills, sewed like a golden thread by John and his band.
He returns for the encore to a continent-crossing cheers. For solid five minutes he stops everything and reaches the front rows, shaking hands, signing, and collecting flowers and love. Then, he blows a kiss in the air, and sits by the piano. He starts playing the legendary “Circle of Life”, while images from The Lion King are shown on the screen. The show is sealed with my favorite song of all time: “Your Song”, as a fireworks spectacular shoots in the air. As he leaves the stage, the lights turn on, both in the stadium and in my life. I will never forget that night, the night when the ground shook.
6.18.13 at 12:37 pm | On my quest of searching better ways to show the. . .
6.17.13 at 12:48 pm | LEGO, Waze, Summer camps, an apology, 8th Wonder. . .
6.14.13 at 12:21 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
6.12.13 at 12:26 pm | Like many before him, the Cambridge University. . .
6.10.13 at 12:25 pm | This Friday, 100,000 people from all around the. . .
6.7.13 at 12:20 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
6.12.13 at 12:26 pm | Like many before him, the Cambridge University. . . (443)
6.17.13 at 12:48 pm | LEGO, Waze, Summer camps, an apology, 8th Wonder. . . (93)
6.10.13 at 12:25 pm | This Friday, 100,000 people from all around the. . . (68)
April 29, 2012 | 12:10 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• On April 22nd, Israel showed respect for our homeplanet by turning off the lights for one hour. Three weeks after most of the world, the state of Israel was shut down from the day-to-day activities and rush. For one hour, the lights in most Israeli houses were turned off, and public places were also darkened. In Tel-Aviv, Israeli musicians electrified the stage in a musical concert. The concert was possible thanks to special eco-friendly energy, generated by volunteers who peddled special bicycles.
• New subject for school: Thanks to a new initiative, students of the governmental schools in Gaza will study Hebrew as of next year. According to the education office in Gaza, Hebrew studies are a part of a new enrichment program that also includes Turkish language studies. Seventh and eighth grade students will learn the two foreign languages. Hebrew teachers will probably be people who have learned the language while spending time in Israeli prison, as well as those with academic studies in Hebrew.
• Israeli nomination for one of the biggest film festivals: The Israeli feature movie God’s Neighbors has been chosen to be screened in Cannes Film Fetsival’s “Critics Week”. The movie, directed by Mani Yaesh, tells the story of a group of Breslov Orthodox Jews, who attempt to force their beliefs on their surroundings, and who, “in the name of God”, uses violence against anyone who dares to think differently. The movie has also been nominated for the Came’ra D’or prize, for “Best First Feature Film”.
• Jerusalem like you’ve never seen it before: After a year of production, the Imax 3D film Jerusalem is finally ready to air, and is scheduled for a worldwide release in 2013. The purpose of the film is to bring Jerusalem to the viewer, while providing the feeling of actually being there. Jerusalem will take you on a spectacular aerial tour of Israel and its capital city, once believed to be the center of the world.
You can get a sneak peak here:
April 26, 2012 | 10:37 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Today, Israel celebrates 64 years of existence. That’s really not much. It’s almost nothing in a scale of countries to age, but in this short period of time, we sure have been through a lot. In 64 years, Israel has been through wars, diplomatic issues, growing population, ground development and many other things every newborn country is going through. But to me, the most amazing thing that happened here was the new culture that developed. Israel is nothing like any other place on this planet.
Those of you who have been to Israel probably noticed this unique population who have a unique way of life. If not, come visit us again, or simply ask your state’s ambassador in Israel what is so special about this place. For the 64th birthday, “Yediot Ahronot”, one of the grand national papers, asked the foreign ambassadors to tell what is their favorite thing about Israel. Liselotte Kjærsgaard Plesner, the Danish ambassador, said that the two things she loves most about Israel are the entrepreneurship, in which Israelis are known to excel, and the tomatoes. Spain’s ambassador to Israel, Alvaro Iranzo, said his favorite things are the coffee shops in Tel Aviv (“Tel Aviv is a city I will never forget.”) The French ambassador, Kristoff Bigot, said the thing he looks up to Israel for is the Israeli openness and solidarity (“Israelis have the most amazing energy, honesty and straightforwardness.”)
As Israelis, we love complaining. To us, the government is unable to deal with anything, simply because we always know better. One common sentence in almost every conversation between Israelis is: “if only we will be the ones who run the state, we would be in a better place right now”. In between complaints comes our Independence Day, and for this special holiday, everything is right. Suddenly, there is no bad news, the papers are colored in white and blue, and everyone throws barbecues with big smiles on their faces.
A couple of days ego, my friends and I talked about the things we love most about living in Israel and being Israeli. Here are mine:
1. The scenery: Deserts, cities, snow, beaches, nightclubs and Kibutzes- Israel’s got it all. There is a local destination for every mood. Having everything only a couple of hours’ drive away is truly a remarkable achievement, which doesn’t only bring tourists, but also makes us feel like we live in the most unique place in the world.
2. The warmth: Israel is hot. Very hot. In summertime I sometimes feel like I am about to melt. But having almost no winter is not the kind of warmth I love about Israel. The warmth I am talking about is the human warmth. We may push in lines sometimes, or steal hotel shampoos, but when a fellow person is in need, you can count on the closest Israeli to provide assistance. Once you meet an Israeli you become his/her friend, before he/she even knows your last name or where you are from. It’s the willingness to think of others, friends or strangers, before oneself, that sure puts a smile on my face.
3. The solidarity: We live in a world that follows the rule ‘every man for himself.’ But living in Israel, this is quite impossible. We all do things together, and are joined by the same emotions at the same time, sometimes without our even noticing. I believe the Israeli solidarity is mostly due to the fact that we all serve in the army. The recruitment for the purpose of serving our country brings us all together, young and old. Moreover, because we live in a small place, where everything concerns everyone, most of us, if not all, don’t go through the day without reading the entire paper. When Gilad Shalit was held captive, everybody joined the efforts to bring him back home. When he returned, the news channels followed the story for the entire day, as there was not a dry eye from north to south; This past summer, we all shared the joint struggle of the middle-class in the demand of ‘social justice’; When we were informed that our source of water, the Kineret, is drying out, all households started saving water.
These are just few examples out of many. All of this togetherness, the shared experiences and the fact that we are still writing Israel’s history, really makes us ‘feel’ each other, and I am grateful for that.
4. Original creations: nine Academy Award nominations, 13 Grammy Awards, 10 Nobel Prize winners, one Miss World winner, seven Olympic Medals. This is a source of indescribable pride. It shows how amazingly talented Israelis are, and how far can the Israeli mind go. The ability to conquer almost every mountain top in pop culture surely puts Israel on the map.
5. The way everyone knows everyone: So we all serve in the army, and share a very small piece of land with relatively few higher- education academies and universities. This is a sure recipe for a situation where no one is a stranger. We often call each other “brother” or “sister”, and there is surely a good reason for this nickname. We are all like this one big family, and pretty much stuck up each other’s behinds, but in a good way. It is very likely for an Israeli to recognize every day at least one name which appears on daily papers. When two Israelis meet, here or abroad, all they need is two minutes, and you can count on them to find out why they look so familiar to each other. Whether it’s from the military service, university, hometown, scouts, or volunteer work - we are all connected to each other.
6. Bamba: Israel sure stands behind many delicious foods, but the one Israeli invention which is, to me, one of the most Israeli things there is, is the Bamba. This peanut butter snack from heaven is all Israeli and all good!
7. Jerusalem: I don’t consider myself very religious, but there is something about that city which takes my breath away. Seeing the tower of David at night, smelling the goods at Ben-Yehuda market, touching the Western Wall, eating the local Hummus, hearing the magnificent combination of a Rabbi, a Priest and an a Muazzin all together calling for service - this is Jerusalem. It is an out-of-this-world experience for all five senses, and a spiritual home for visitors and residents from all over the world.
8. The optimism: I am often addressed by people who live abroad that ask me how come I still live here, with the missiles and the threats and the unpopularity in some parts of the world. My answer is one of the most famous Israeli sentences: Everything will be all right. This sentence, combined with the strong belief that everything will, in fact, be all right, is the Israeli essence. No matter what, we stick with our home, with the country that our parents and grandparents built. We sure have been through a lot, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. But don’t worry, be happy!
9. Israeli Breakfast: chopped salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onion with fresh-squeezed lemon juice on top, along with an omelet and 5% cream cheese. Add some bread, and fresh made cappuccino, and you have yourself a perfect Israeli breakfast. I make sure to have one outside, with my friends, at least once a month, on a Saturday morning. The food, the sun and local gossip - that’s the good life.
10. Driving a French car, purchasing products online from the US, always saying that Europe is much safer, having a Facebook profile picture of you near the Great Wall in China, mixing words in English while talking to your friends, and constantly planning your next trip abroad, but always knowing there’s no place like home.
For your birthday, my dear Israel, I wish you many more years of fulfillment. May you never stop developing and may you always be an important part in our lives.
April 24, 2012 | 10:15 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Being the most painful day for the Israeli nation, the Israeli Memorial day marks for me, more than anything, solidarity and togetherness.
In its 64 years of existence, Israel has been through more than ten wars and operations, and endless terror events. To this day, 22993 Israelis have lost their lives in the battle for our homeland, 126 of which- in the past year.
Today, like every other year, the Israeli nation bows its head for the victims and heroes. No matter where you are or what you do, on 8pm the night before, and 11am in the morning- you will stop. At those times, a siren is heard throughout the country, and all Israelis stand still and show their respect and grief for those who lost their lives and their families.
Luckily, I haven’t lost anyone to terror or on the battlefield. None of my high-school classmates or my military service partners have lost their lives, nor a family member. Despite that, every year I can’t help feeling grief and sorrow. In the land where we address complete strangers as “brother” and “sister”, I can’t help feeling I lost 22,867 relatives. I am not a strange bird on the matter. On Memorial day, most people I know, even while not knowing any of the veterans and victims, go to at least one memorial ceremony, and cry. My friends and I go to our high-school, where the pupils read aloud the names of the graduates who are no longer with us and the school choir sings one of the many songs that were composed throughout the years, especially for this day. At the town square, and in every military base, soldiers stand, hats on their heads and weapons in their hands, and guard the memorial candle and the Israeli flag. I was one of them, just two years ego.
Everything is different that day: the radio only plays quiet songs, the television broadcasts Memorial Day specials and most of the stores are closed. Every working place, campus, military base and school, conducts a ceremony, and a national ceremony is held in Jerusalem. But it is not just the official atmosphere which is different; it’s also what each and every one of us feels inside. None of us pretends, and it is not a façade- it is real. We are all Israelis, and we share that Israeli experience every day. We all know each other, and we all share the grief with the families who lost their loved ones. But while the grief for some of my friends and I, fades away as we enter Independence Day, which is the next day, those families stay with the loss and carry it with them every waking minute. The loss is present in their lives every single day, and they carry it in every breath they take. For one day, all citizens of Israel share that loss with them, and show the proper respect for those who fought for our right to continue living here, and for those who did nothing but living, and were killed by suicidal terrorists for no reason.
The Israeli soldiers, who lost their lives in wars since 1948 to this very day, took the bullet for my family and me, so we could sleep at night. Some were 18 year olds, young men and women who just finished high-school and were getting ready to begin their lives. Others were older people with families who were called to serve again, just for the war-time.
When thinking about those veterans, there is no left wing or right wing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether deaths were in vain or for a higher cause. The only thing that matters is the loss, and the support we can provide to the families who experience this loss for another 364 days. In memory of those who are no longer with us, who, like flowers, were picked up in their bloom, I light a candle. For their family members, I salute you. May they all rest in peace and may there be no more early deaths.
April 21, 2012 | 10:15 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
One of the reasons I write here is to present a different perspective to what you may see or hear on the news. The news may be presented as objective, but when it comes to news, there is no such thing as “objective”: from the topic you choose, to the order in which you present the comments by the people involved in the story- you show your opinion even if you don’t intend to.
This is why it is only natural for the international news to sometimes present a certain point of view which is slightly or distinctively against Israel. Some watch and read about the things some claim we do for the reasons they claim we go by, and are convinced that that information is true. After all, if it is on the news, it must have happened. The same goes here, I am sure of it. Being aware of this lacking of objectivity, I usually take the news I read for granted. Only after reading the same story in at least three different papers, do I rely on the shared information.
My point is that sometimes we fall for half-truths, and even twisted truths. But since true stories are the best way of demonstrating a point, I want to tell you the story of Nicky Larkin. The Irish filmmaker watched the violence in Gaza, courtesy of Israeli soldiers. The hatred burned through his veins as he read about operation Cast Lead in 2009, and he decided he could no longer stand aside. After receiving funding for filming a documentary about the vicious acts by the IDF, Larkin packed his bags and went on the first flight to Israel. Equipped with his camera, Larkin started filming in Bethlehem. What happened next turned everything around. In a column published in the Irish Independent, Larkin wrote about the adventure he could not foresee:
“I used to hate Israel. I used to think the Left was always right. Not any more. Now I loathe Palestinian terrorists. Now I see why Israel has to be hard. Now I see the Left can be Right—as in right-wing. So why did I change my mind so completely? Strangely, it began with my anger at Israel’s incursion into Gaza in December 2008 which left over 1,200 Palestinians dead, compared to only 13 Israelis. I was so angered by this massacre I posed in the striped scarf of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation for an art show catalogue.”
“Yet when I interviewed Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian government member, she sat forward angrily in her chair as she refused to condemn the actions of the suicide bombers. She was all aggression.
This aggression continued in Hebron, where I witnessed swastikas on a wall. As I set up my camera, an Israeli soldier shouted down from his rooftop position. A few months previously I might have ignored him as my political enemy. But now I stopped to talk. He only talked about Taybeh, the local Palestinian beer.”
“Looking back now over all I have learnt, I wonder if the problem is a lot simpler. Perhaps our problem is not with Israel, but with our own over-stretched sense of importance—a sense of moral superiority disproportional to the importance of our little country?”
Read more here
April 20, 2012 | 11:49 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
The story of Israel is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to revival (free translation from Hebrew).
In the 1940’s, the Jews, who were scattered all over the world, faced destruction by an evil monster with a twisted mind and great charisma. Being ruthlessly abused by beasts, and forced to let go of the remains of their respect, European Jews were stripped of their humanity, going through something worse than hell, something that no one could ever believe was possible, and which was hard to grasp or understand. Six million lost their lives by the cold hearts and warm rifles of the Nazis, and very few survived, and became a living testimony for the Holocaust horrors. Those survivors swore to never let this happen again by building a land to call their own.
On the 5th of the Hebrew month Iyar, Israel declared its independence, and became the land of the Jews, a place to call “home” for those who were hunted on foreign lands - a place where the Jewish people will always feel safe. Out parents and grandparents built and developed this land with their bare hands, working day and night, and started what later became one of the greatest armies in the world, an army which will always protect the citizens of Israel from attacks and harm.
Being a desired strategic location, which suddenly came out of nowhere, our neighbors weren’t in the mood to ask for some sugar, and we found ourselves in constant war, since the day of the independence declaration. In its 64 years of existence, Israel went through tough wars, and lost tens of thousands of soldiers in battle. Soldiers who fought for our protection and for our homeland, and soldiers who were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, lost their lives for the citizens of Israel, and allowed it to keep existing, being a safe and secure place for Jews. Israeli soldiers, serving in the IDF, just like my brother now, still risk their lives every day in order to protect the Israeli people. Every year, more and more families join the circle of loss, as more names are added to the list of war veterans who lost their lives for us.
This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week during April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many on our fight for our home. On these three days, there is no school and in most cases, no work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation - wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During those three days- stores are closed, just like Shabbat, only the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day.
During the Holocaust Day and Memorial Day, the entire television broadcast changes. Besides television specials, no comedies or “light” shows or movies are aired. Some of the international channels are blocked for viewing, and hundreds of movies, series and documentaries are aired. At 10 am, a siren is heard all over Israel. At this point- every Israeli stops his or her current action, and stands still. Cars pull over, forks and knives are put down, and everything is silent. Nothing is heard, except for the siren, as people unite with the memories of the day.
On the night between Memorial Day and Independence Day, we gradually go from grief to celebration and party on grand concerts and colorful events which are held in every city. We celebrate our independence, while the memory of the loss is fresh and always on our minds.
This meaningful week is my most intense Israeli experience, and where I feel the most connected to my home. Whenever I feel like I want to see the world, and move out of here for good, I remember the purpose of this place. I remember why it is so important to have a place of our own, a safe place that took the lives of many, just for us to keep living in it.
As we approach this week, I wish all of you a life of fulfillment, wherever you are, just like our grandparents lived theirs, when Israel declared its independence. Dreams exist for realization, so that we can have essence to our lives. Go and live your dreams, wherever you are and wherever you may go. But no matter where you are- remember where your home is, where your family is. This is the safest place in the world.
April 18, 2012 | 11:08 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
When reaching the 11th grade here, in Israel, you get a chance to go with your classmates on an eight-day journey to Poland, partially sponsored by school. This journey follows the years of the Holocaust, and is an opportunity for a different way of learning about the worst time of the Jewish people.
It took me a while to decide on whether I want to join this trip or stay home. I always chose to avoid the horrors as much possible, and found the possibility of remaining in my bed during Holocaust Day the best solution.
I boarded the plane in the summer of 2007, along with 120 11th graders from my school and several teachers, feeling like I could have done many better things with myself this week. I started writing a journal, hoping to come to great realization, but found myself being rather cynical at first. This cynicism gradually turned into many serious realizations and ended with great appreciation.
For this year’s Israeli Holocaust Day, which is this mentioned tomorrow, I translated my journal to English for you to read.
After months of preparation and four days of packing, the big day arrived. Considering my endless inner-arguments on whether to go on this journey or stay home, I was expecting to feel excitement, tension or even curiosity, but got nothing.
I am writing to you, dear Diary, from room 214, hoping you could be my writing surface (and a dear friend). I Hope will be able to write everything that I feel, even what I won’t share with my friends. I am going on this eight-day journey on purpose to feel more confident and stronger. This is a journey of self-discovery, while digging deep into our painful history. You have the honor of being the diary of a person who wishes she had someone else’s journal from Poland to read before deciding to go on this trip.
I’m still not sure if I am where I should be right now. Maybe I should’ve stayed home…
Yours truly, searching for meaning,
Today we all received a necklace with a Star of David, and a distinct order to tuck it under our shirts. Signs of Hebrew are forbidden, just in case…I’ve never worn a Star of David necklace, and for my first time- I have to hide it.
This hiding of my nationality felt like the beginning of a meaningful Zionist process, or was it…?! The day started with a visit to a Jewish cemetery, hiding between a shopping center and a McDonald’s branch. The only connection this cemetery had with the Holocaust was a formal tombstone for Yanush Korchack, and another one for a group of unknown men who jumped off a train on their way to a concentration camp and got caught. We all found this visit a bit weird, and I was convinced this is our teachers’ way of easing us into the Holocaust atmosphere. I realized I was wrong when the next stop was an hour at the shopping center.
Next we went to Rapapport monument, where I finally felt something- my stomach growling. From there, we went to an Israeli restaurant for dinner, with menus in Hebrew and Israeli music. What can I say- there’s no place like Poland…
Yours truly, searching for a cornflake that fell on the floor,
“Quiet, quiet, let’s be silent,
Dead are growing here
They were planted by the tyrant
See their bloom appear.
All the roads lead to Ponar now.
There are no roads back
And our father too has vanished,
And with him our luck.
Still, my child, don’t cry, my jewel
Tears no help commands
Our pain callous people
Seas and oceans have their order
Prison also has its border
Our torment is endless
Today I walked in a forest of death. My foot left a print on the ground where bleeding people were dragged, and their screams for help were silenced, swallowed by the tall, dark trees. Back then, those tall trees witnessed what our minds are far from comprehend. Today all they witness are camera flashes and teenagers wearing delegation T-shirts, looking around and trying to understand.
Today, I stood silent as the teacher prayed for those who were buried alive underneath our feet, shaking the ground with a cry for help, which slowly faded away.
Today, I shed a tear while listening to “Angels’ tears” (a famous Israeli song by Yoni Rechter), a cellphone vibration in the background, while angels are watching from high above, whispering the lyrics with us.
Today I lit a candle near a pit hole, where my brothers and sisters were thrown to the chilling howl of drunken Nazi beasts.
Today I lit a small flame as an attempt to memorialize six million.
Today I marched into Auschwitz Birkenau, carrying an Israeli flag. I walked on the railroad that carried hundreds of thousands to their death, and waved the flag that those who built this place intended to never exist. It doesn’t matter how I write it, this feeling cannot be described on paper. You have to be there to feel this intense, powerful, complicated feeling. My classmates were really supportive. We marched, hugged together, in a concentration and destruction camp that remained almost the same way as it was 60 years ago. The only difference is that instead of the smell of scorched bodies, there’s the salty smell of tears. There is blue sky instead of no sky. Other than us, there was a church group, led by a priest, who also came to witness the unbelievable. I can’t describe the joy I felt knowing we are not the only ones who care.
We held a short service inside one of the old cabins there. We sat in the dark, quietly, and those of us who wanted to, got up in turn, and read the names of his or her family members who went into one of the “camps” and never came back. One by one, we commemorated by name, those who were stripped from their identities. I was shivering when I read names of relatives I didn’t get to know. “We are only 100 people, and look how many names have been read”, one of my classmates whispered to me.
One by one, we begin to appreciate what we have. I am very lucky to be here today with my friends.
Searching for one truth,
Somewhere in the town of Lublin, amongst a neighborhood and an enormous field of beautiful flowers, lie the remains of Majdanek Ghetto. We wandered around the ghetto, while following the written story of a than 13 year old girl named Hilena.
Cabins. Lines of Cabins, where many memories are preserved. One of them was filled with an uncountable amount of shoes. I still find it hard to comprehend that in each pair, once walked a person.
We entered gas chambers, where Jews were led into after a proper sterilization. Get the irony, dear diary? The Nazis, who made terrible crimes, murdered, and treated people like they were animals or even less, were actually very neat. Sons of bitches. The walls are colored in Cyclon-B blue, drenched in horror and filled with scratch marks.
My reaction to the crematorium I simply couldn’t contain. The shock was more powerful than the tears that ran out. Here, in those ovens I stand in front of, people were cremated, sometimes alive. From this chimney, the smoke of people came out. Right here, next to the hill of ash we now surround.
Right before I was about to start singing at the service, the tap opened and the tears started running. I stood in front of everybody, trying really hard to sing, while my friend put her arm around me, and saw everybody, every single person that I go to school with- cry.
It was very cold outside, but no one complained. We won. We are standing here, alive, with a country of our own. We all stood in a circle, holding hands, and feeling like we’ve never felt before.
I am filled with appreciation to my family, to the fat in my body, to the shoes I am wearing. Slowly, everyone is starting to realize what is given to us. I am so lucky to be.
After finding everything,
April 16, 2012 | 12:49 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This Sunday, a group of 1500 participants of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ fly-in protest planned on flying to Tel-Aviv in an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank. Their plan, as reported by them online, was to protest against the so called segregation and inequality, and to help repair broken buildings, plant trees, etc. They were all civilized people from several countries in Europe. They were probably unarmed, and had no plans to commit terror activities. All they wanted was to land in Tel-Aviv, travel freely to the West Bank, which is officially not a part of Israel, and recognize the state of Palestine, which does not exist.
****FYI, this state could have existed today if in 1948, the Arabs who lived here would have agreed to the UN proposal for two states. Yes, this offer was valid back then, but they chose to decline, because they wanted the entire territory for themselves. So no, no one over there wanted two states****
After requesting several times to the activists to not show up, the state of Israel decided to not allow those activists to enter for the purpose of participating in an activity against the country. Official letters were sent to the airlines, requesting them to cancel the flights. Most flights were, indeed, cancelled. On the flights that did take off, a letter from Israel awaited the passengers, with a sarcastic note. In the letter, Israel “thanks” the pro-Palestine activists who chose Israel for their battle for human rights, then redirected them to Israel’s tyrannical neighbors. It was signed with the sentence: “we therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.” The letter might have been sarcastic, but held so much truth. As I mentioned many times before, we are the only Democracy in the area. We are surrounded by states ruled by tyrants who stripped their citizens of their human rights. Poverty and famine are everywhere. In some places, people are being brutally butchered on a daily basis. In the only democracy in the Middle East, ALL CITIZENS ARE EQUAL BY LAW, such as in any other Democracy. Not all people respect the law, just like in any other Democracy, but those people are law breakers.
Eventually, from those who did land in Ben- Gurion airport, a few were allowed to enter, after questioning, while others, as promised, were sent back to their homelands. When interviewed, representatives of the activists said that Israel prevents the freedom of speech, and that they were treated like they are terrorists, while they are merely “women, elders and the handicapped” (quoted from a newspaper). I understand those who think Israel should have let them in, but I also believe that each country has its own right to not allow people in with the intention of disorder. Israel has the right to choose not to be a friendly host to people who are against it, and who want to assist those who are looking to harm it, whether by using violence, or by raising signs and causing chaos. As an Israeli, I am obligated to obtain a tourist visa in order to enter the United States. The immigration teller in the U.S Embassy can easily decide if I look like a terrorist, or that I seem like a person who has intentions of harming the country, or even that I don’t have a strong enough connection to Israel and may stay longer than I stated - and may simply deny my request. The United States has the right to not trust some people and to not allow them in. Israel has the same right.
I am all in favor of human rights organizations, I really am. Sadly, in the 21st century, there are some places on this planet where human rights are severely violated. I encourage those passionate activists with warm, kind hearts to go to one of those places, and help make the world a better place. Activists, I really believe in your primary goal, just don’t waste your strength here. You are fighting windmills here and you will be all worn out without saving those who really need a rescue.