The Holocaust And The State Of Israel
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Aims of the meeting
To look at reasons behind anti-Semitism
To link the Holocaust to the creation of the Jewish State
To examine the value of independence.
The holocaust and the state of Israel
Aims OF Peula:
• To look at reasons behind anti-Semitism
• To link the Holocaust to the creation of the Jewish State
• To examine the value of independence.
In reality, we are not looking at the Holocaust as an historical event in and of itself but rather in the context of the creation of the State of Israel. As you will see events from 1939-45 had major consequences for the decisions made in 1947 regarding the State of Israel.
What is the Holocaust and why is it unique?
The Holocaust refers to the murder of six million Jews and the destruction of Jewish life in Europe by the Nazis. It was an event unique in size and savagery, a ‘crime against humanity’, a crime of genocide – that is an attempt to exterminate all members of a particular ‘racial group’ and their cultures and traditions, because they belonged to that group.
The Holocaust was unique because it was the only time in history where the obsessive and irrational pursuit of the implementation of the killing of Jews was pursued even when it was clear that Germany was going to lose the war. Crucial military, transport, manpower and other resources continued to be diverted to the murder of Jews right up until the last days of the war.
Also, many societies have blamed their ills on minority groups but none have ever made one group the scapegoat for so long and so single-mindedly as the
Christian world has done in the case of the Jews. This extensive history of anti-Semitism provided the Nazis with a fertile soil in which to cultivate their programme of racial hatred.
Why teach the Holocaust?
• The Holocaust carries tragic meaning for us. It is a symbol for Jews: the danger of anti-Semitism. Chanichim should know that anti-Semitism is a phenomenon in today’s society and that it is a danger that should not be ignored.
• The Holocaust showed the indifference of most of the world to the murder of Jews, how readily people become partners or silent, passive witnesses to monstrosity. This ethical lesson applies to all of us, not to stand idly by while the weak and defenceless are treated cruelly on whatever scale it is, whether in the classroom or in Bosnia.
• The growth of Holocaust denial as many of the survivors are no longer alive is blurring the Holocaust as an authentic historical phenomenon. The Holocaust should be taught so that it is not watered down by historical ‘revisionists.’
• Lastly, there is something in remembering just for the sake of remembering. Not forgetting the many millions of our people that died through the sanctification of God’s name (Al Kiddush Hashem) is the way to realise that we are all one nation that share the same destiny and belong to the same past.
“To be a Jew is to work for the survival of a people – your own - whose legacy to you is its collective memory.
You too have lived the Holocaust.”
Elie Wiesel, One Generation After
History is about the other, it is not your story – it is his story
Memory is about me. The Holocaust should be a part of our national collective memory.
Split your group into two groups and then into pairs within these groups. Tell the first group that the pairs should relate a profound memory in their life to one another and that their partner should be able to convey their partners memory to the group. Tell the second group that they have to talk about their memories with each other but ultimately they will relay their own to the group as a whole.
Chose a number of Chanichim from the two groups to tell their memories or those of their partners. There should be a marked difference between the way in which the Chanichim tell of their own personal memories to the way in which the others talk about the history of their friend.
For as long as we can remember, the Jews have been subject to anti-Semitism. Philosophers, political theorists and Rabbis have given their reasons for it, but because anti-Semitism has appeared in so many eras, in so many places and in so many guises, there seems to be no singular explanation for it.
Here are some reasons for anti-Semitism: Can you think of anymore?
We claim that we are the Chosen People
We look different
We are rich
We claim to have the right to the possession of Israel
We try and control the world by getting into politics and business
We killed Jesus
We are the cause of economic strife and social disharmony
No real reason – an irrational sense of hatred
Try and discover what your chanichim think the reasons for anti-Semitism are by playing the hot potato game. The hot potato symbolises the Jew and s/he is rejected by anyone with whom s/he comes into contact. Get your chanichim in a circle and throw a ball (hot potato) into it. The chanichim have to catch the ball and throw it again as soon as possible, like a hot potato. As they do this they have to say a reason why they are throwing the Jew away – a reason for anti-Semitism.
For Bet: Give each chanich/a a reason for their anti-Semitism on a piece of paper. They have a couple of minutes to prepare a defence of their type of anti-Semitism and present it to the group. The rest of the group has the role of challenging the chanich/a about why they believe in their type of anti-Semitism.
The Holocaust and the State of Israel
Historians see a causal link between the Holocaust and the foundation of the State of Israel.
Had it not been for the European Jewish catastrophe, all the centuries of religious longing for Zion and all the years of secularist Zionist activity, the Balfour Declaration would have produced no more than a Palestinian ghetto.
The death of six million Jews in the Shoah had made the Jewish problem an international problem. The nations of the world felt a responsibility to the Jews after ignoring their plight in the 1930’s. After the Evian Conference on Jewish refugees in 1938 the Nazis felt that they could rely on the international community to become bystanders to their crimes against the Jews.
In 1945, after seeing the horror of the concentration camps and the devastation the Nazi onslaught had caused. There was a moment of respite from political cynicism in the international community that lasted long enough to give legal sanction to a Jewish State.
Only the Holocaust produced a desperate determination in the survivors and those who identified with them. The Holocaust inspired Jews to act for themselves. Two types of Jews pushed for a homeland when faced with the issue of homeless Jewish refugees fleeing from persecuted Europe.
The first type of Jew, the Jew in Palestine, began underground organisations to push the British to withdraw from the Mandate and to let more of the Holocaust survivors into their territory. Throughout the war the Jews in Palestine had developed their organisational, economic and military as well as their international support making them a strong force by the time it was necessary to fight for their country. The Holocaust had taught the Jews a valuable lesson: action as a response to persecution. The Zionist movement acted out of a conviction that human effort is required if Jews are to be safe.
The second type of Jew, those among American Jewry lobbied the President Truman, threatening to withdraw their vote if they were not given their demands.
Consequently, America bribed Britain economically and strategically to pull out of Palestine. By then Britain had realised that Palestine was more trouble than it was worth and was almost happy to say farewell to the small part of their Empire.
An independent Jewish homeland…
In the Biblical story the non-Jewish prophet, Balaam uses the phrase ‘A people that dwells alone’ (Bamidbar 23:9) to describe the Israelites whom he sees encamped in the desert. This phrase sums up the way the Jews have seen themselves through history because of their separate culture and laws. It is also the way that the nations of the world have seen Israel, as a separate entity. This at once is the reason for the survival of the Jews and also explains why the State of Israel has a right to exist.
Indeed, Israeli citizens see the Diaspora experience - an experience that epitomises the phrase ‘a people that dwells alone’ - as the best justification of Israel’s right to exist. The Holocaust symbolises not only the murder of six million Jews encapsulates the total experience of Jew amidst Gentile. The gut feeling of the experience of the 1939-45 period on the Jews was that there was a need for a sovereign, strong and established Jewish State.
Had it not been for the Holocaust, the community in Palestine might have been a community with impressive internal achievements, but rather than a national home for homeless Jews, it would have been itself at the mercy of some alien government of dubious benevolence.
Give three Chanichim separate balancing challenges: to juggle while hopping along a line of string or to stand on a stool on one leg for 2 minutes while gargling a song. Allow each chanich/a to ask for balancing support of their fellow Chanichim, if they need it (they can ask for as many helpers as they want). The person who balances for the longest time is the winner.
At the end remove the chanichim from their balancing position and ask them to do the same task on stable ground.
Learning objective: to show that support from other nations is satisfactory but that the best situation is not having to balance at all, and to be an independent entity.
But the wonder of these events has to be viewed when we question what could have happened.
Why were the survivors not desperate to stay away from Palestine rather than reach it – the one place on earth that would tie them inescapably to a Jewish identity? (After what that destiny would have been to them, the desire to hide or flee from their Jewish identity would have been ‘natural’.)
Why did the Zionist leadership not disintegrate under the pressure of the Second World War and its consequences?
Why did almost all the international community vote for the State when clearly not everyone was overwhelmed with sympathy by the terrible loss of Jewish life in Europe. Ernest Bevin was considered to be entirely deaf to Zionist pleas.
How was the Jewish community sufficiently equipped to defend itself against five Arab countries that surged upon the Israeli nation to exterminate it. These countries were encouraged by the way Hitler had practised genocide and were not deterred in any way by sentiments of sympathy for the Jewish cause.
• As a trigger it might be an idea to ask the chanichim to talk about any instances of Anti Semitism that they have encountered.
• Send three people out you tell them all that they have to be an animal. You give each of the three an animal. You then invite them in one by one and they have to act like the animal, it is the job of the other people in the room to guess what animal they are. However, when it is the turn of the third person the chanichim should deliberately not guess what animal it is and leave them to dance round for ages and make a fool of themselves.
• You know the ‘sticker on the head game’ well cause its shabbat you’ll need to use crowns. On these crowns put names of celebrities that are hated, i.e. Simon Cowell, David Beckham, everyone in the group should be given a crown and they must go around the circle asking each person one question in an attempt to find out who the person on their head is. When they have worked out who their person is, the madrich should ask each person to explain why their person is hated. It should lead into a discussion of why the Jews are hated.
• Play eliminations with two teams where one is bigger than the other. It will probably happen that the bigger team will win very quickly. You then play again and this time give the small team a small area where they cant get out. Restart the game and the game should a lot fairer.
• Good old shuffle bottoms. Play a few times with no spare chairs. Then after a few minutes add another chair and it should be alloy easier for the person in the middle. When the Jew has somewhere to go it is a lot easier for them to settle.