It is two minutes of silence that have lasted nearly six decades.
In 1951 Israel established Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, as the period observed by most of the Jewish community as the official commemoration period for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and for participants in Jewish resistance to the Nazis.
Commonly known as Yom HaShoah, the day’s most poignant feature in Israel is when most of the population – outside of haredi and Arab circles – stands in silence for two minutes as sirens blare. This takes place in traffic, where drivers step outside of their cars, in homes and school and military bases.
Places of public entertainment are closed in Israel on Yom HaShoah, Israeli radio plays somber music and Israeli television carries Holocaust-related programming.
In other countries, the day is marked in a variety of standard ways – most commonly candle-lighting ceremonies, recital of Kaddish and speeches by survivors and descendants.
In Miami Beach, a woman wipes away tears at the city’s Holocaust Memorial, above, which features statues of emaciated Jewish victims.
In Poland, thousands of Jewish youth from abroad who took part in the March of the Living hold a memorial program at Auschwitz (inset).
In Israel, the day begins at sundown at Yad Vashem when the flag is lowered and six torches are lit.
The next day at 10 a.m. the sirens are sounded.
The Knesset originally intended to establish Yom HaShoah on Nisan 14, when the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began in 1943 on the eve of Passover, but the date was moved to Nisan 27 to avoid a conflict with Pesach preparations.
Many Orthodox Jews include remembrance of Holocaust victims in observance of Tisha b’Av, the traditional Jewish date – marking the fall of the two Temples in Jerusalem – for honoring national losses and martyrs. Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, former Chancellor of the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, also ruled that Holocaust commemoration should take place on Tisha b’Av.
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