Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

Life in Israel

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Israeli commercial life and society

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

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Jerusalem and Holocaust Day – a reminder we all need

Holocaust Day in Israel is usually held towards the end of April. The exact date each year recalls the Hebrew day of the desperate and tragic uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto. The BBC posted today that:

Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem (“A Memorial and a Name”), has been working to recover the names of all the victims, and to date has managed to identify some 4.7 million…. (and) has collected 2.7m Pages of Testimony.

Jerusalem is the home of Yad Vashem. Located towards the south west of this special city, the museum looks westwards, directly and deliberately towards the former wastelands of Europe.

You always know when it is Holocaust Day in Jerusalem. The weather closes in. The evening, when the services of remembrance begin, is almost invariably chilly. (The previous day had seen a heat wave!) Throughout the main parts of the city there is a delicate quiet, which cannot be described as peaceful. And when the sirens ring out at 10.00am sharp each year, it takes the birds and wind to break the silence.

Approaching Holocaust Day, you always wonder what more is there to learn about this horrendous event. It is over 72 years since the camps ceased to function. Isn’t it just a matter for the historians. And yet, fascinating stories never cease to emerge from the ashes, and many are to found in Jerusalem.

The Parliamentarian Rachel Azaria lives in Israel’s capital city. She recently discovered a letter from her great-grandmother. In 1933, as Hitler was sweeping to power, the lady wrote to the ailing President Hindenburg: “Is incitement against Jews a sign of courage or cowardice, while Jews are only one percent of the German people?”

If that was not brave enough – call it chutzpah – what is more incredible is the response.

Hindenburg responded to Friedman two days later saying he was opposed to violence and even included a handwritten response from Hitler on the letter, who claimed, “The claims of this woman are ridiculous lies. There was never any call for pogroms.”

Azaria owns the original letter, signed by the future dictator himself.

Not far from Azaria lives Daniel Schwab. He grew up in South Africa and moved to Jerusalem many years ago. His Facebook post today is chilling, as he details at least 12 members of his family who were murdered during World War Two. (Names can be located at the Yad Vashem registry).

Last week, Daniel’s Facebook page detailed how:

In May 1933, a young man named Rudolf Schwab (my grandfather) fled Nazi-occupied Germany. His departure came at the insistence of a close friend who later joined the Nazi Party. Schwab eventually arrived in South Africa, one of the few countries left where Jews could seek refuge, and years later, resumed a relationship in letters with the Nazi who in many ways saved his life.

From Things Lost: Forgotten Letters and the Legacy of the Holocaust” is … an extraordinary collection of letters discovered in a forgotten trunk. (A near unique story).

(However,) here’s one of the craziest parts of the Schwab family story: Rudolph’s father Max was a loyal and proud German who served in the German army in WWI and was decorated for bravery and distinction. His commendation was signed by none other than…Hitler. Blows the mind.

And today, what do we see in Europe? Yesterday’s election result was a triumph for the right wing National Front Party of Marine le Pen. This force is riddled with anti-semites. Meanwhile, in London, Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to gain power in Downing Street will be supported as ever by the Momentum, which the local Jewish community found many of its members to be equally loathing of Jews and / or Israel. Unfortunately, but for the wrong reasons, this too blows the mind!

And that is why Holocaust Day, especially when launched from Jerusalem, is so important. It offers a chance to remember that mankind has spent thousands of years intentionally picking out Jews and inflicting frightening horrors upon them. And that is why the phrase ‘never again” is so appropriate, when retelling and retelling and retelling these facts.

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