I can hardly be considered sympathetic to the Haredi cause, but this mornings “report” in Yedioth Aharonoth about a group of Haredim “celebrating” Yom Hashoa with a barbeque in Jerusalem’s Sacker Park is simply beyond contempt. One is left with the strong impression that the journalist, Danny Adino-Ababa, set out for his day’s reporting with one thing in mind: To find a “story” that would somehow, anyhow, make Haredim look bad. And voila! What could be better than a Haredi celebration of Holocaust Remembrance Day? See how primitive and unfeeling those damn dossim are? They can’t even honour the Holocaust, for God’s sake!
At the risk of being labeled a “shill for the Haredi lobby” (to paraphrase a talkback I got about an article I wrote years ago), perhaps I’ll point out something that Mr Adino-Ababa chose not to: Maybe, just maybe, the Haredi young people who gathered in Sacker Park were there because it is the last week of the yeshiva holiday month (known in Yeshivish as Bein Hazmanim), one of the few times during the year that leisure activities are actually sanctioned by the community? Could it be that they didn’t set out to violate the “sanctity” of Holocaust Remembrance Day, but rather that they don’t recognise the sanctity of a state-sanctioned memorial day at all? Is it possible that they only intended to have an afternoon in the park, with no underlying sinister motivations, but once a moronic journalist showed up asking questions about a memorial day they don’t recognise, they seized the opportunity to rankle a sector of Israeli society that they already view with deep disdain and suspicion?
The underlying suggestion – that Haredim don’t honour the memory of the 6 million – is so outrageous as to belie belief. Anyone who has spent even a minimum of time around Haredim know that the Holocaust is a prevalent, ever-topic. The pre-occupation with the Holocaust, both in the yeshiva and chassidic worlds, has defined the extreme emotional connection to “the way things were,” even though the way things are today bear little resemblance to pre-war Europe. Haredi young people of all stripes today are raised and nourished on the stories of sacrifice and religious heroism in the ghettos and camps of 1940s Europe, and to mourn the loss of the luminaries who led the Orthodox world at that time. Far from ignoring the Holocaust and memory, the Haredi public has internalised the Holocaust in a real, palpable way.
Most of my readers, and all my acquaintances, know my feelings about the sanctity of the State of Israel and the religiously significant nature of the decisions made by the Knesset. I suggest, however, that Holocaust Remembrance Day is an exception. One is left with a strong feeling that the determination of 28 Nissan for our national Holocaust memorial day was chosen not despite Orthodox objections, but rather in order to poke the Orthodox establishment in the eye. There is little historical significance to the date – the Warsaw Ghetto uprising did not begin on this date, but rather two weeks earlier, on the eve of Passover. There is no reason the day could not have been marked on 13 Shvat, the day Auschwitz was liberated. Or the 12th of Tevet, the day that Abba Kovner urged Jews in the Vilna Ghetto to rise up and fight their oppressors.
But given the anti-religion sentiment prevalent in nascent Israel, the very fact that Orthodox communities objected to a memorial day in the celebratory month of Nissan was enough to cement the observance. Now you’re coming to criticise the victims of that eye poking?
We already have a national memorial day to mark the Holocaust, and all the pogroms that preceded it, and every other tragedy that has struck our nation over the past 3000 years. It is called Tisha B’av. Have you ever heard of that, Mr Adino-Ababa? Would you know what that day signifies, even if you have heard of it? And most importantly, would you care to explain why the Holocaust stands apart from all other Jewish tragedies, such that it should not be marked on the traditional day of Jewish mourning?
Adino-Ababa’s article is an appalling example of the poverty of Israeli journalism, the lack of standards to which journalists are held, and of the abuse of press freedoms to promote hatred and anger. He, and the editors who ran the story, are beyond contempt.