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What the Yom HaShoah siren means to Israelis

By Eliana Rudee, Originally published in JNS

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. At 10 a.m. all throughout Israel, a countrywide air-raid siren wails. That sound is alarming and too familiar for many Israelis—it is the same air-raid siren that alerts communities of falling rockets, urging them to take cover.

In the summer of 2014, I ran to the bomb shelter countless times at the onset of this siren. When I returned back to the U.S., I found that my dad made his phone alarm an air-raid siren, unbeknownst to him how similar it was to the siren in Israel. Whenever the phone alarm went off, my stomach would drop as if I were in a roller coaster, plunging downward. And that was my reaction just from being in Israel for a few months during a war. Imagine what native Israelis feel, especially those in the south who have only 10 seconds to run for cover when they hear this sound.

When Israelis hear the alarm on Yom HaShoah, everyone understands that it is not a rocket alarm. Cars on the road come to a halt. People stop what they are doing and listen. The siren, although it sounds the same, has a very different call to action than the terrorism siren. But one must wonder, can we truly separate these two sirens?

The Holocaust was about scapegoating, about blaming the Jewish people for society’s problems. Economy not doing well? It’s because the Jews take the jobs and commit usury. Disease spreading? It’s because the Jews act as carriers for diseases. Simply put, any misfortunes were because of the Jews. Jews were even blamed for opposite things at the same time. Jews are both pacifists yet war-mongers, inferior yet dominating, capitalist exploiters yet revolutionary communists, and primitive yet successful. These were the problems that the Nazis saw, and their final solution was genocide of a people.

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