Monday, April 16, 2007

Holocaust memorial sirens = normality

Holocaust Remembrance Day is in progress at the moment. Yom HaShaoah, as it is called in Hebrew, is a unique part of Israeli life.

At mid-morning, sirens sound throughout the country for two minutes. When the sirens begin, people stop what they are doing and stand silently in memory of six million Jews murdered in the Nazi-led Holocaust. When the sirens stop, daily life picks up where it left off.

Today I was on Ben Yehuda Street when the sirens went off at 10 a.m. As usual, pedestrians halted on the sidewalk. Motorists got out of their cars and stood in the street.

While the sirens were still sounding, a big, expensive automobile drove past.

One seldom sees such a disrespectful act on this day in Tel Aviv. I won't try to comment further on it. Instead here is something I wrote in a diary three years ago.

Holocaust remembrance day (Monday, April 19, 2004)

A few minutes after 9 a.m. the screen goes dark and the computer shuts down. The radios are suddenly silent, and the emergency lantern is lit. A power failure.

Going down into the stairwell to check the circuit-breakers, I encounter a downstairs neighbor. His apartment is also without electricity.

I telephone the electric company. A computer voice answers. As of 9 a.m., it says, no power outages are scheduled. The voices advises me to check that the problem isn't in my circuit breaker. Next, the voice asks me to key in my area code and telephone number. The computer does a quick lookup, and the voice tells me the problem is in Tel Aviv, on my street, in my building. It tells me which key to press if other apartments in the building lack power. I do it.

After I hang up, the thought starts occurring to me that something bigger may be wrong. Power outages where I live are rare, and the electric company usually restores service quickly. I listen to the 9:30 news update on a battery-powered radio which I keep in the apartment for emergencies. Nothing unusual on the radio. Just the usual tensions. The radio devotes its main discussion to the Holocaust, which is being remembered today in memorial ceremonies throughout the country.

Ten minutes later I hear a woman's voice, shouting: "Hello! Hello! Down there! Do you have electricity?"

From my kitchen windows, I see the shouting is coming from the penthouse of the building next door. This neighbor has never spoken to me before. I spoke to her husband once, a former city official, when he came in to vote where I was a poll-watcher in the last national elections and I had to verify that he was who he said he was. Apart from that, we have had no other contact. Now she is asking a question, and I hear anxiety in her tone.

"We don't have electricity in this building," I tell her. "I reported it a half-hour ago."

"Has there been an attack?" (We are speaking Hebrew, and she uses the word pih-goo-'ah, which denotes an act of sabotage and has come to connote terrorism.) "Like in the United States?" I understand this as an allusion to 9/11.

"There was nothing on the radio," I tell her.

I go out onto the front balcony. I see that a woman is cleaning the sliding glass doors in a third-floor apartment across the way. I want to believe that all is normal in Tel Aviv. But the thought that something sinister may be behind the power failure won't go away.

Then I hear the sirens.

It is 10 a.m., and the sirens are sounding around the country, as they do every year on Israel's Holocaust memorial day. The sirens reassure me. Everything is okay, I tell myself. If there had been an attack big enough to knock out electricity in Tel Aviv, the sirens wouldn't be working, would they? The reasoning is false, but this doesn't occur to me until later. At the moment, the woman across the way has stopped wiping the glass doors and is standing at semi-attention on a balcony, looking out at the street. I see no other sign of life.

After two minutes, the sirens stop. Immediately, an automobile noisily turns a corner into my street and two men in work clothes stride purposefully into a building entrance. They had been standing out of my line of sight during the sirens.

A few minutes later the electricity comes back on. On this memorial day that has become part of our life, all seems normal.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

Labels: , , ,

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

'Like this, as if' is a literal translation of Hebrew slang, 'kahzeh ke'ilu.' This Hebrew expression is a literal translation of 'so, like,' as in 'It was so, like, cool.' A weblog translating Israeli life into English.

Notice: Please read Ami and Joe: two great men have left us

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Notice- Copyright Materials

Israel: like this as if articles are copyright intellectual property of the authors. Please link to the originals and quote parts of them in non-commercial Web publications, and forward them to friends by e-mail with the URL of the original article and credit to the author. Other uses require written permission.

Zionism-Israel Info Center
Zionation Web Log
Zionism & Israel News
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

Zionism-Israel Pages
Brave Zionism
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
MidEastWeb: Middle East
Middle East Web Log

Irene Lancaster's Diary
Sharona's Week
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Meryl Yourish
Simply Jews
Liberal for Israel
Southern Wolf
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Peace With Realism
Realistic Dove
Sanda's Place
Blue Truth
Jewish State
Encyclopedic Dictionary of Zionism & Israel
Maps of Israel
Six Day War
Zionism and its Impact
Jew Hate!
Zionism on the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0