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Yom Ha'Shoah evening

In the Jewish calendar, the full day starts at sundown and runs to the next sundown. Jews start with darkness, welcome the morning, end with the sunset. Western nations start their day in the middle of the night (mid-night) and run 24h to the next mid-night.

Tonight at sundown will start Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I'm starting this post at 1635h in Boston, we are maybe four hours away from sundown here. Israel is seven hours ahead of the East coast of America. In Jerusalem it is 2335h, they've already had sundown, their Remembrance Day has already started.

At eleven in the morning IST - Israel Summer Time, GMT+1, sirens will sound all over the country. For two minutes solid. Everyone in a vehicle will stop and get out of it. And pray in remembrance of six million Jews destroyed in the Holocaust, one and one-half million of them children, among them the sisters Anne and Margot Frank. Anne was coming up on her 16th birthday, which she would not survive to see; Margot had turned 19 in that February and would also die in April.

When the sirens sound it will be four in the morning here in Cambridge. I will hear them not physically but spiritually.

When I visited Israel it was not Spring, it was Fall, it did not matter, while I was there I made the trip to Yad Vashem three times. The national memorial museum is an architectural wonder, it's a region of buildings, not just one. The main building is in the shape of a gigantic railroad trackbed and its open end soars out off the ground above the valley. Symbolizing the railroad tracks bearing the cattle cars chugging off to one of many death camps and subcamps from which no return would occur, the cars came back empty to load up the next human cargoes. It's bent to symbolize that the tracks cannot be used anymore. The exhibits will chew at your heart, I remember one videofilm, contemporary to 1942 or 43, taken of a religious (or maybe civil) procession and as it goes along, people fade out one by one, you see the buildings behind them but they are not there anymore, and the rest of the processing folks fade out also one by one, until all you see is the background. No people at all.

When you walk outside and follow one of the trails, you are walking in the woods and suddenly you turn a corner on your path and there sits a real cattle car on your right, with a memorial plaque, that car once actually was part of a transport, to use the term the Nazis did, people were stuffed into that actual car and not all of them made it to the camps, death came to them.

One hell of a lot different than reading a history book.

Later on I would actually be LIVING in a history book in Holland, the SS and SD regularly marched up and down the same street I took every day to go to the cinema or ballet or library computer floor -- that street was right outside the hostel I stayed in... same canal wended right outside our dining room door and bordered the patrol routes. A little shop run by a very genial old man was filled with old state license plates from the USA, he had been born in 1929 (same as Anne) and showed me actual signs from the occupation 'eintritt verboten' and others. The SD and SS came around searching for Jews, the shopkeeper had been 11 when the Germans invaded, his parents hid him away in a house close to the coast, turned out it was across the street from one of the V-2 sites used frequently by the army (they didn't know that then, they sure found out later.)

The strongest impression I took away from Yad Vashem was not one of death, though there was plenty of that everywhere. It was of rebirth. Renaissance. Re-creating an ancient realm as a new modern nation, despite horrific obstacles and having to fight every day for their existence (boys are automatically drafted for 3 years at eighteen, girls for two, it's compulsory. Not just desk jobs for either sex, either -- you're shooting at people who are shooting at you.) That's having some form of terrorist attack to defend against since May 1948.

It was like living in a very hot war zone for three weeks, they've done it for 67 years next month.

The major enemy isn't Germany any more, it's Iran and the nuclear ambitions/empire-building of the ayatollahs who run the place.

When he visited the USA recently, PM Netanyahu told Congress (Parliament) that "In America you talk about national security; in Israel we talk about national survival."

My icon up there is the ISR national insignia of the IAF -- Israel Air Force -- and photographer Rachel Papo has done an enthralling job of going back to the IAF in 2004 after her duty tour as an aerial photographer 1988-90, revisiting what it is like for 18-year-old girls, published her work in her book "Serial No. 3817131."

It is not only non-Israelis who are profoundly changed by the combat zone that is their land, it's the Israelis also. Especially youth.

"War is not good for children" (of any age) "and other living beings."
Street poster from America in the sixties, true this night too.

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kiota too late for the stars
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