Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.
On this day in Israel a siren sounds for one minute at exactly 10 A.M. throughout the country.
Children as young as toddlers learn to stand at attention in their pre-school classes, drivers on the road stop their cars and stand beside them, and shoppers come to a stand still.
It’s really quite an amazing sight.
The whole entire country stops.
Well, almost the entire country.
There are some people who don’t stop.
You see, working from home, I have the opportunity to stand outside when the siren goes off.
I guess I started that tradition knowing that there is something calming, something safe, something hopeful about being outside and overlooking the green, luscious countryside where we live.
Instead of looking down as most people do, I look straight ahead into the distance – which happens to be the road that connects my kibbutz to the Arab village down the road.
The stillness is kind of mesmerizing.
Except when it’s not still.
Because there are people that destroy the silence when they don’t stop driving their cars during the siren.
And year and year it doesn’t cease to annoy me.
Have they have no respect at all?
How dare they!
But, I continue to look at the road nonetheless.
Glare at the cars, stunned and speechless.
But, today, for some reason, I caught myself staring.
What am I doing?
Why am I allowing myself to get annoyed?
Why am I allowing them to annoy me?
My questions led me to realize I was stuck.
So, I stopped. I closed my eyes and lowered my head.
I told myself I was stuck on annoyance.
I uncovered just one belief:
I believe that all Arabs could care less about the Holocaust and have no respect for the Jews.
All Arabs? Can you really make that claim, Shira?
That’s it. I didn’t need to uncover any more beliefs.
I considered that my balcony overlooked only one road in this entire country, and certainly could not give me a full perspective of all the Israeli Arab doctors working in hospitals on this day, and Israeli Arabs lawyers working in the courthouse down the road, and Israeli hi-tech employees, and the many other Israeli Arab men and women that live and work in this country and do stop in silence out of respect on this day.
I also considered there’s no need to judge who stops their car and who doesn’t; who stops working and who doesn’t; who stands at attention and who doesn’t. It’s none of my business.
I considered the fact that there’s little to no Holocaust education for Arabs in Israel (a tragedy in my eyes) and I considered when was the last time I made any effort to learn about or inquire about my Arab neighbors’ holidays and personal/collective histories?
I considered what I needed to do in that moment is stand focused and out of respect for those murdered, and not castigate anyone else not doing so.
I chose to lower my eyes to the floor of the balcony and focus my attention on the memory of the 6 million.
I got stuck on annoyance, but it’s OK.
I often times fall into that trap of separating myself from others and judging them, believing that I am better than they are – even before I even have the chance to meet them.
Isn’t this kind of how the Holocaust began?