On Monday, Israel marked Yom HaShoah, national Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a unique event in the national calendar, as the country pauses to remember and mourn for the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

On Sunday evening, shops and restaurants close early, and the streets are empty. A major Spanish league soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid would normally be broadcast on Israeli television, but because it was Yom HaShoah, sports game are not shown. In recent years, a program called Zikaron BeSalon has gained popularity. Started by a few friends in 2010, individuals all over the country open their homes, and in this informal setting, a Holocaust survivor or their descendants share their story with the audience. Each event is different, as the host and speaker can run the event how they want to, so some events include song, music, poetry and discussion as well. This year, half a million people attended events all over the country.

One of the many “Zikaron BeSalon” gatherings. (From the Zikeron BeSalon Facebook page)

At 10AM on Monday morning, a two minute siren sounds across the country, and people stand in silence. Strikingly, even the highways fall silent, as drivers pull up to the side of the road, get out their cars, and stand in respect of the millions who lost their lives.

There are numerous ceremonies in schools, universities and museums all around the country. One of the most moving is the one that takes places in the Knesset, called “Lekol Ish Yesh Shem,” “Every Person Has a Name.” In that ceremony, government ministers, as well as Knesset members from all parties, step up to the stage to read out the list of names, of their family members who were killed in the Holocaust. Party members from all over the political spectrum are united in their memory of their murdered ancestors. And the symbolism is exceptionally powerful – the descendants of those murdered, today sit in Jerusalem, as lawmakers in the parliament of the Jewish State.

Prime Minister Netanyahu lays a wreath at Yad Vashem

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

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