Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
If there was ever a reason for the existence of the nation of Israel, other than the promises of the Bible, the Holocaust is it. The Holocaust, of course, is a source of great sorrow and memory for Jews all over the world. Yet, living in Israel gives one a unique perspective of the event. For almost 2,000 years Jewish existence and survival were subject to the mercies of the nations in which they lived. With the rise of Israel, Jews literally have a place of refuge. Therefore, the holiday is honored differently here. The official holiday in Israel is Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. Not only are those who perished in the Holocaust remembered but also those who resisted the Nazis, such as those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. That resistance forms the basis of Israel’s existence, and influences her relationship with others, especially sworn enemies. It’s very difficult for Americans and probably others to understand this unless you live here.
Events are held all over the country, beginning with the evening before, this year, this past Sunday night. Our kibbutz, like most others, holds ceremonies. A week or so prior to the event, the kibbutz secretary, Gila, whom we knew prior to moving here, called Stacy to ask her to play and sing some songs, of course, in Hebrew, of which two of the songs Stacy had never heard. I was asked to light one of six large candles and say a prepared statement in Hebrew. The six candles represent the six million Jews who perished. Different people were to light each candle and make a statement. Gila’s phone call set Stacy and me scrambling to prepare – for me to read the Hebrew correctly since many of the words I wasn’t familiar with, and for Stacy to learn the songs, both the words and the music. Our friend and cantor, Riki, here helped us with both.
We arrived at the kibbutz theater early to meet the various participants and plan accordingly. Stacy had done a sound check earlier. She planned to play and lead the singing for two songs on guitar and one on piano. The event began. There were about 100 people present ranging in age from young children to the very elderly, including Holocaust survivors. Four candles were lit, each one followed by a short statement, including mine, about the Holocaust or the resistance. Since no one laughed or jeered, I assume my statement was understandable. See the pic of me lighting a candle. Then Stacy played her first song appropriately entitled, “Eli, Eli,” meaning my God, my God. It’s not really like the passage from Psalm 22, which Yeshua cried at His death. However, it is a prayer that certain aspects of life never end. Regardless, as soon as she began playing and singing, it was as if God Himself was in the room. Some sang quietly along. Many just listened. Everyone was visibly touched. See the pic of Stacy playing.
Following the lighting of the sixth candle, another man shared a lengthy personal story. We only understood bits and pieces. Then Stacy played and sang the song, “Lechol Ish Yesh Shem” (everyone has a name) about one’s identity connected to his/her life’s experiences, including death. It’s a very haunting melody, appropriate for the occasion. This time more were singing. I was humming. People kept turning to me and mouthing, “amazing.” Finally, the ceremony ended. Everyone stood as Stacy led from piano this time, “Hatikvah” (The Hope), Israel’s national anthem. People were really overwhelmed, and many told Stacy how beautiful the music was. She was quickly recruited for the Yom Ha-Atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations next week.
I think the significance of the event is that we felt that we finally broke into the community here. Up to now, we’ve gotten to know surrounding neighbors, but most of our acquaintances are outside of the kibbutz. Yet, we felt very clearly from the Lord that this was the place where we were to move. I believe this event was the open door for us in the community.
There is a special visa program for foreigners to win a green card to come to the US, known as the visa lottery program. Every year 50,000 green cards are awarded completely based on a lottery program. Millions of people apply for the coveted US green cards. Several years ago we actually helped some Russians in the US who had participated and won a green card through this method. However, I had no idea until I got here that there is also a marriage lottery.
If you recall from a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Unmarried, who married an American citizen, ultimately gaining US citizenship, while being married in a religious ceremony to an Israeli woman – the real wife. He now wanted to pass on his American citizenship to his son. This past week I met a few more of these folks. In fact, this time two families came to my office to discuss how they could bring their wives to the US. In both cases, the men were Israelis who had obtained US citizenship through marriage to Americans, while simultaneously living with and marrying Israeli women and fathering their children.
This situation was eery. Both families seemed very nice and loving. It’s obvious these are good people. Yet, if the US government ever discovered what they did, they could lose their American citizenship. I gave them some advice and cautioned them about possible outcomes. They’ve since divorced their American wives after obtaining US citizenship and now want their current and real wives to obtain green cards. For one family, it didn’t make much sense since they didn’t want to live in the US, and unlike citizenship, one can lose a green card if she doesn’t live in the US. The other family was more serious about it since the husband owns and runs a business in the US. I explained to him the process, again warning him that it could expose him to losing his citizenship. He may yet hire me. But I began to think I probably need some ethical advice about handling some of these cases where I know the clients have done something illegal.