JERUSALEM (JTA) — As Israel ushered in Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, with a ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran “do not test the determination of the State of Israel.”
Six Israeli Holocaust survivors lit torches to represent the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The theme of this year’s events is “70 Years of Remembering and Building: Holocaust Survivors and the State of Israel.”
Along with the warning during his address, Netanyahu also offered a message to the Iranian people: “Israel is not your enemy, but the regime of tyranny that oppresses you.”
“The events in recent days teach us that standing up to evil and aggression is the mission imposed on every generation,” he said. “No generation is exempted from this task, and the generation that evades it is woeful. We saw the swastika raised by the rioters next to the Gaza fence. We saw Syrian children being slaughtered with chemical weapons. Our hearts were torn from the horror.”
He added: “During the Holocaust, we were helpless, defenseless and voiceless. In truth, our voice was not heard at all. Today we have a strong country, a strong army, and our voice is heard among the nations.”
President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel will fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
“There is the Holocaust and there are Holocaust deniers, and the difference between them is the truth,” he said.
He also took a jab at Poland, where he will travel Thursday to lead the 12,000 participants from around the world in the 30th March of the Living. No country can “legislate their forgetting” of the Holocaust, Rivlin said, referring to Poland’s new Holocaust law that imposes fines or up to three years in jail on anyone who ascribes “responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich.”
This year’s torchlighters at the ceremony were Mirjam Lapid, a native of the Netherlands; Shmuel Bogler, Hungary; Thea Friedman, Romania; Raul Teitelbaum, Kosovo; Issachar Dov Goldstein, Slovakia; and Abba Naor, Lithuania.
The Yom Hashoah observances will continue on Thursday morning with a two-minute siren during which all activity throughout the country ceases. During the rest of the day, the names of Holocaust victims will be read out at Yad Vashem and at the Knesset as part of the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” observance.