Israel halts for Holocaust day, honors 6 million Jews killed

Israel_Holocaust_76081 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Bennett opened the country's Holocaust memorial day Wednesday with a stark warning for Jews against letting internal divisions tear society apart.
Israel_Holocaust_49813 Israeli soldiers attend the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Bennett opened the country's Holocaust memorial day Wednesday with a stark warning for Jews against letting internal divisions tear society apart.
Israel_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day_95836 People look on floating handmade boats lit with candles and with the names of Nazi concentration camps, during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Hayarkon park in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Israel marking the annual Day of Remembrance for the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide who perished during World War II.
Israel_Holocaust_28939 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Bennett opened the country's Holocaust memorial day Wednesday with a stark warning for Jews against letting internal divisions tear society apart.
Israel_Holocaust_20031 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Bennett opened the country's Holocaust memorial day Wednesday with a stark warning for Jews against letting internal divisions tear society apart.
Israel_Holocaust_32910 Israelis stand still next to their cars on a main road as a two-minute siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Holocaust remembrance day is one of the most solemn on Israel's calendar with restaurants and places of entertainment shut down, and radio and TV programming focused on Holocaust documentaries and interviews with survivors.
Israel_Holocaust_93175 Israelis stand still next to their cars on a freeway as a two-minute siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Holocaust remembrance day is one of the most solemn on Israel's calendar with restaurants and places of entertainment shut down, and radio and TV programming focused on Holocaust documentaries and interviews with survivors.
Israel_Holocaust_05316 Israelis stand still next to their cars on a freeway as a two-minute siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Holocaust remembrance day is one of the most solemn on Israel's calendar with restaurants and places of entertainment shut down, and radio and TV programming focused on Holocaust documentaries and interviews with survivors.
Israel_Holocaust_45879 Israeli soldiers attend the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_01621 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Galit stand still together with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal during the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_60941 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat stand still together with President Isaac Herzog during the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_32218 Richard Lutz CEO of Deutsche Bahn, and Kai Diekmann German journalist, pay tribute during a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_34413 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pays tribute during a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_53083 Richard Lutz CEO of Deutsche Bahn, and Kai Diekmann, a German journalist, pay tribute during a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day_83340 People walk along a bridge lit with a billboard showing a yellow Star of David that reads "Jude", Jew in German, resembling the one Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Ramat Gan, Israel, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Israel marking the annual Day of Remembrance for the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide who perished during World War II.
Israel_Holocaust_26946 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat take part in the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_30285 Israeli President Isaac Herzog pays tribute during a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_56688 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog stand still together with other officials during the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_04466 Israeli soldiers attend the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_40246 German Parliament President Baerbel Bas pays tribute during a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Israel_Holocaust_00525 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, his wife Gilat, President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal take part in the ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 28, 2022.
APTOPIX_Israel_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day_10287 People walk along a bridge lit with a billboard showing a yellow Star of David that reads "Jude", Jew in German, resembling the one Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Ramat Gan, Israel, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Israel marking the annual Day of Remembrance for the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide who perished during World War II.
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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Sirens blared across Israel early Thursday as the country came to a standstill in an annual ritual honoring the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

People halted where they were walking, and drivers stopped their cars to get out of the vehicles as people bowed their heads in memory of the victims of the Nazi genocide. Ceremonies were planned throughout the day at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, parliament and elsewhere.

Israel was founded in 1948 as a sanctuary for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust. About 165,000 survivors live in Israel, a dwindling population that is widely honored but struggling with poverty.

Ushering in Holocaust memorial day at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett late Wednesday called on the world to stop comparing the Holocaust to other events in history. He spoke after the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia drew parallels between their ongoing war and the genocide during World War II.

“As the years go by, there is more and more discourse in the world that compares other difficult events to the Holocaust. But no,” he said. “No event in history, cruel as it may have been, is comparable to the extermination of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators.”

He also warned the country against allowing its deep differences to tear the nation apart. The speech, coming on one of Israel’s most solemn days of the year, came in a deeply personal context as well. On Tuesday, his family received a letter with a live bullet and a death threat. Israeli authorities tightened security around the premier and his family and were investigating.

“My brothers and sisters, we cannot, we simply cannot allow the same dangerous gene of factionalism dismantle Israel from within,” Bennett said.

Israel makes great effort to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and make heroes of those who survived. Restaurants and places of entertainment remain closed on Holocaust memorial day, radios play somber music and TV stations devote their programming to documentaries and other Holocaust-related material..

For them, challenges loom. This year’s ceremony comes as Israel and much of the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, which confronted Holocaust survivors in particular with increased health risks as well as widespread loneliness and despair.

Additionally, about a third of Israel’s Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line, with many sustained by government stipends and donations, according to a group that represents survivors.

Despite their experience and widespread education programs, antisemitism rose worldwide during the pandemic, according to a report released Wednesday.

It pinned the fuel for the anti-Jewish surge on lockdowns, social media and a backlash against Israel’s punishing air raids on the Gaza Strip during last year’s 11-day war.

In addition to speeches by Bennett, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and others, Wednesday’s ceremony featured survivors lighting six torches — for the 6 million murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The speaker of Germany’s parliament, Baerbel Bas, also attended as a special guest.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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