Earlier this week Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. Standing on a street in Sderot, I listened quietly to the siren sound, remembering the tragedy of 6 million Jews killed in Nazi Europe, my great grandparents, uncles and aunts from Poland among them.
I’ve become used to sirens sounding in Sderot during my past two years here-the click of the intercom, followed by a female voice that calmly repeats Tzeva Adom, Tzeva Adom, or Color Red. The scenes that unfold usually entail people dashing into shelters-racing for 15 seconds that may mean the difference between life and death.
But now at this moment, the Holocaust siren gives me a moment to reflect. I watch passerby’s stop, Ethiopians, Russians, Uzbekistanis, Moroccans, Persians and the like; Israeli Jews from countries around the world who make up Sderot’s colorful cultural tapestry. We stand together to remember the tragedy of silence that cost the lives of so many innocent people in our nation.
It is this tragedy of silence which probably strikes hardest here in Sderot.
Eight years of Qassam attacks have wounded over 1,000 Israelis, destroyed hundreds of Jewish homes, and have left thousands of children psychologically traumatized. Today close to one million Israelis in southern Israel live under the threat of Palestinian rocket attack thanks to the financial aid and embedment from Iran.
Who will speak up for these Israelis who continue to be the targets of radical Islam in the form of Hamas rocket terror?
Sderot is targeted not because it is a city outside the 1967 green lines, nor because of an army base located in the city. Sderot is part of the UN Partition Plan of 1948 with a civilian population of 19,000, where over 5,000 residents have been forced to flee since Palestinian rocket fire began on the city in 2001.
Sderot is targeted simply because it is a Jewish city on the frontlines of Israel-an easy target for Palestinian terrorists who seek Israel’s destruction.
The greatest testimony that the world is once again returning to its apathetic state of silence that defined the era of Nazi Germany was revealed no less ironically today at the Durban II conference when Iranian President Ahmadinejad was invited as a guest speaker. Moreover, Hans-Rudolf Merz, the president of Switzerland, a country that declared its “neutrality” during the Holocaust, agreed to meet with Ahmadinejad, who is a fervent Holocaust denier and has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel.
According to an Associated Press report, the Swiss president defended his meeting with Ahmadinejad and said that the criticism of the meeting was unjustified, stating that “Switzerland is neutral and not part of any alliance.”
Ahmadinejad’s presence at Durban II is symbolic in that there has been no overwhelming international outcry against his views or the fact that he was invited to speak at the UN conference on racism.
Iran is considered the greatest threat to Israel’s survival. Although Iran, an oil-rich country, continues to claim that its nuclear program is meant to produce electricity, it remains clear to Israel that Tehran is intent on building nuclear weapons that could potentially cause massive destruction to the state.
Sderot residents have been the silent targets of Islamic terror for too long. Last year on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, 13 rockets fell upon Sderot. Although rocket fire has significantly decreased since Operation Cast Lead, close to 200 rockets have still been fired at the western Negev region. If Israel does not effectively stand up for her citizens at home, who will stand up for Israel in the world?
As countries across the world show alarming acceptance of a blatantly anti-Semitic figure like Ahmadinejad, demonstrated in Durban II, the state of Israel and the Jewish people cannot allow silence to become a national policy in the face of anti-Semitic terror, be it rockets or rhetoric, at home or abroad.