When we celebrate Pesach in a couple of weeks, we will re-tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, how the Jewish people went from slavery to freedom and from exile to redemption, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.
Just days later, our joy turns to sorrow, as we remember the Six Million who were murdered during the Holocaust. In Israel, the entire country comes to a standstill as a minute-long siren blares and we recall the horror and devastation. Yet we also commemorate the bravery and heroism of the many Jews who did survive. Joining our community for Yom HaShoah here in Boston will be 15 active duty officers from the Israeli Defense Forces who comprise the 2nd Annual CJP Boston-Haifa Connection Hatikvah Soldiers Mission.
From April 28th through May 4th, this inspiring group of IDF Officers from Haifa will be addressing audiences all over the Greater Boston area about their experiences in the military and their connections to the American Jewish community. This delegation, created in partnership with Israel ‘s Ministry of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, includes both male and female officers, as well as members of Israeli-Ethiopian and Israeli-Russian olim (recent immigrant communities). The Hatikvah mission’s goal is to strengthen ties between Israeli and Diaspora Jews and help Bostonians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, learn more about a country many people only know about through headlines in the media.
In the coming weeks, we hope to give you a taste of what the Mission will be bringing to the community – by featuring some of the officers’ stories for you in advance. These will be stories about what it means to be an Israeli, a Jew, and a young adult placed in often impossibly difficult circumstances. These will also be stories about the officers’ reflections on Yom HaShoah, as the delegation will be in Boston during Yom HaShoah and will be joining in our Community Commemoration in Downtown Boston (four of the participants are pictured above with Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav)
The context of the history of our people that plays out over the next month is the context for the Hatikvah Soldiers Mission. The Soldiers’ Stories are reflections on a people and a nation that has overcome adversity time and time again. Their story is our story.
One of this year’s participants, Nir Sturman, a 26 year-old Navy Lieutenant, shares his thoughts with us ahead of the visit – about the meaning of his service in the IDF and his connection to Yom HaShoah:
“ There is a program called “Witnesses in Uniform,” or Edim b’Madim, that is an integral part of the training of an IDF soldier. In this program, we travel to Poland and follow in the “footsteps of the Shoah” – to the sites of former Nazi concentration camps. When I was offered the chance to participate in the program, I felt that it was my chance to cope with the important matter of my connection to the Holocaust.
“My family is originally from Eastern Europe, and even though a part of my family was killed in the holocaust, it wasn’t discussed much at my home.
“Therefore, I decided to take advantage of the time I had before the actual journey to Poland and prepare myself mentally. I was eager to learn as much as I could during the preparatory seminars, and I even purchased some books about the Holocaust. I knew that as an Israeli and as an officer in the army, I have an obligation to know and understand as much as one can comprehend about the tragic events that happened to the Jewish people, understanding that I am now part of the organization responsible for not letting it happen ever again.
“ While preparing for this mission, I looked at my notes from that journey and I relived the strong emotions I had and recalled how meaningful that experience was for me. I know with no doubt that this horrible history will always be used as guiding principles in all future and current affairs – for me, for Israel, and for the Jewish people.
“Although I think about the Holocaust all year round, there is one day when I make a special effort to remember. On this one day, we remember those who suffered, those who fought, and those who died. Six million Jews were murdered. Many families were completely wiped out. But because it’s too difficult to bear it with you all year, the Holocaust Remembrance Day is the day you deal the most with the sorrow. In Israel we call the day “Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura” which means “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day”. As an officer, I take great pride in the heroic stories, the bravery and courage of survivors from all ages. These stories are an important part of this day, sending us a message never to give up our right for freedom.
“I always wonder, as an Israeli, how our lives would be today if the Holocaust had never occurred. These thoughts drive me as an Israeli.
“When I’m asked the question, “what does it mean to you to be an Israeli?” I instantaneously fill up with pride. I’m proud of Israel , I’m proud of Israel ‘s accomplishments during its almost 63 years. I think that the progress of our small nation in this short period of time is remarkable, and the fact that we survived dealing with our enemies and winning wars is rather astonishing. But that is what we do as Jews and as Israelis – every day. We remember, we fight, and we survive. And the fact that all Israelis are willing to contribute 2 to 3 years of their lives (at least) to the IDF, makes it possible for Israel to survive. And the unique feeling of being Jewish, for me, means being part of this unique tradition … and to passing it on … to the next generation.”
There will be many opportunities to meet with the Officers of the Hatikvah Mission throughout the week. Here are just a few of events you should be aware of.
Friday, April 29 – Kabbalat Shabbat with Havurah on the Hill
Sunday, May 1st – Yom HaShoah Commemoration and 15th Anniversary of the New England Holocaust Memorial
10:30am to 12:00pm (The Holocaust Memorial on Congress St .)
Monday, May 2nd – Young Adult Community event with the Boston-Haifa Young Leaders and CJP’s Young Leadership Division (YLD)