Archive | November, 2011

Life and Horror, in Europe and in Israel

1 Nov

I just put down the book Sarah’s Key, after reading it in (almost) one gulp. The book haunted me profoundly. I couldn’t stand up after putting it down. It is horrible but also somewhat hopeful. They story is horrid and the author manages to describe in vivid, real detail the horrors the children of the Vel’ d’hiv’ endured. The way the author incriminates her own people is almost as shocking to me, because I have experienced how the French have denied their complicity in World War II.

The story of 10-year-old Sarah does bear similarity to my grandmother’s war experience.  My grandmother, too, had a younger brother. Her parents and brother were killed at Treblinka. She had stayed behind by chance in Czenstochowa, her hometown in Poland, and survived with her aunt and uncle in a work camp there.

How awful Sarah’s story is. For the two nights I was with her, and the modern narrator, Julia, I didn’t sleep well, having nightmares about leaving Amitai alone in various situations.

I recently spoke with Aharon about the effects of being a second or third generation survivor on one’s morals. He had just been to a lecture about the psychological impact of the Greek-Turkish population transfer in 1922 on the second and third generations.

“Do you think it affects you?”

Of course.

From early on, I knew that my acute sense of justice, and sensitivity to human pain was linked directly to my grandparents’ past. Many of my friends and colleagues in Israel had also feel the same way; I work for human rights because I don’t want others to experience what my grandparents did.

I think this ethos has shaped Israel. It’s not latent on most days. The Occupation casts a deep shadow on these ideals; though it’s not comparable to the Holocaust, we as a people cause another people, in our totalities, a great deal of suffering.

It did shine through on that one amazing day in October, during Sukkot, when Gilad Shalit came back from five years of Hamas captivity. It took five years – five years too many. The debate on whether Israel would release murderers was futile – everyone knew it was going to happen. It was a shame it took so long.

I believe that Bibi made the decision because one of our core values is that life is sacred. You can’t leave a living soul to waste indefinitely in captivity. We had learned from our mistakes. He also did it for the photo opp and political gain but I truly believe the value of life was at the core.