“וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ, שֶלֹא אֶחָד בִּלבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵינוּ, אלא שבכל דור ודור, עומדים עלינו לכלותנו”
“That which stood for our ancestors applies to us as well.
For it was not only one individual who stood up against us to destroy us.
Rather, in every generation they stand up against us to destroy us.”
Several weeks ago the Passover holiday came to an end. Jews around the world quoted and sang this verse on Seder night, in which we recall our exodus from bondage and oppression in Egypt to freedom and sovereignty and our rebuilding as a people based on the moral code of the Ten Commandments.
And as the liturgical verse states, in every generation we witness the rise of those who would seek to destroy our people. From Egypt, to the destruction of the temples, the expulsion from Spain, pogroms in Eastern Europe, the Holocaust and still today.
Two weeks ago, we observes Yom Hashoah, the Jewish Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust – the darkest of all attempts to annihilate the Jewish people and erase our existence from the world. In which millions of Jews were marched to their deaths under an ideology of evil based on wicked lies. In which nearly an entire nation chose to create an unequal hierarchy of human beings in the world in which the Aryan race was at the top, and thus allow itself to commit acts that the devil himself would not dream of. Meticulously and methodically – through blind faith in this evil ideology and amid the collapse of all moral rectitude – our people was mortally wounded and scarred in a way that can never heal.
Every year Hanoar Haover Vehalomed (NOAL youth movement) commemorates the events of this darkest chapter of Jewish history. We choose to focus on the story of the youth movements, those young people who saw reality with a fierce clarity lit by the flames of resistance. Young men and women who insisted, within the inferno of destruction, to see the good, and to cling to life. They educated, learned, lived and created within the ghetto. They believed that it was still possible for people to choose to live lives of equality, they believed in the rebirth of the Jewish people. They were Zionists. And they were also the first to understand the extent of the terror, the scale of the catastrophe, the magnitude of the destruction. They organized, just like they had at underground seminars and schools in the ghetto, and they formed fighting units that would carry weapons against the Germans to fight for Jewish redemption. They waged a battle when defeat was a foregone conclusion. But they opted to fight, for their liberty, for Jewish dignity and honor.
“In every generation – each Jew must see themselves as though they themselves left Egypt.” The Haggadah resonates here too. The young men and women in the ghetto saw themselves as if they had left Egypt and were not willing to simply allow the forces of evil and oppression to crush our people’s freedom. They did what they did for their people, for everybody, for those who could not resist, and for those who were already dead, and those who were on the trains. They did what they did for humanity – for morality.
For the past six months of my life I have been guiding a youth movement group of 11th graders on an educational process to prepare them for a journey to Poland to discover the roots of the Zionist revolution and the youth movements’ uprising in Poland. A month ago I returned with them from Poland to Israel.
The choice to guide such a journey and the educational content it entails is connected to the decision to bind my life and those of my students to those Jewish lives who were and who are no more. To choose to learn, to study, to tear down the walls of indifference that grow with the distance of generations and years.
The journey to Poland shook me. Over the course of a week I walked through places that saw the darkest horrors in human history and I thought about us. About our Israel, about the youth here, about Israeli society. My mind did not stop thinking about what role we must play here in Israel.
During the journey, one of the students asked me how it was that the trip to Poland could instill so much hope in the most horrific places. I was glad that he asked, it made it clearer to me what the point in the whole journey is for the youth, and for me too. That that is our job here too.
To remember, and not forget, so that we can create a world and a society to oppose the very idea of Auschwitz.
To learn about the resistance and Jewish heroism in order to protect our sovereignty, autonomy, and freedom in an independent Jewish state.
To rebel against injustice in every form.
To appreciate and love our country for whom so many fought and died.
To want a better, more just, world. To educate, and educate, and educate the young towards justice, equality and peace, to dignity for all human beings.
Yarden Levi has been a member of the Akko Educators' Kibbutz for eight years.
She currently works as the coordinator for NOAL youth movement guides in the Marom Galil region.