As director of the Spiro Ark, (www.spiroark.org) I feel we have a duty to provide meaningful programmes whose affects are longer-lasting and different in nature than the norm, and particularly so around the International Holocaust Memorial Day of Remembrance.
It would be inspiring if the message of International Holocaust Day could be The Spiro Ark's educational aim spread over every day of the year, every minute of each day when we as adults, are on the alert to teach and show by personal and historical example, sensitivity, caring, and fair judgement of situations by ourselves through a process of studying all aspects of a given situation; working hard to understand other points of view, and being able to distinguish between right and wrong, between demagogies and mass hysteria. We should all be taught to be able to read an article and search for the facts beyond the opinions sold to us often by a biased writer, speaker or politician. This is, in my view the only shield against injustice, prejudice and eventually genocide. The Spiro Ark events are one avenue in which young and old alike and people of every culture and faith, can experience 'remembrance' in unusually uplifting ways.
Islamist Extremists are Intent on 'finishing Hitler's Work'
How does the current situation in Gaza today enter to this debate? Israelis as well as Jews around the world are openly threatened by fundamental Islamists of wiping the country and its people not just off the map of the Middle East, but off the whole world -- in other words, the goal of these extremists is literally to complete Hitler's work. For eight whole years rockets have been shelled from Gaza onto settlements in the South of Israel, killing and maiming innocent citizens of all ages.
Indeed, not only the outside world is tormented by the current situation. Jews and Israelis around the globe feel just as sad and upset for all those being hurt. However reality is such that "Never Again" must also refer to the fact that people in Israel have the same right to live like anyone else in a democratic world, and to raise their children in normal circumstances and pursue normal human aspirations without the fear of daily rocket attacks and suicide bombers coming over into Israel with only one intent -- to commit the greatest mayhem and murder possible.
All those who now condemn Israel, who finally after years of restraint have had to take a more radical action to defend their own citizens, should stop and think for a moment about the results of terror, holy wars and lack of compassion of those who wish to have the Middle East "juden rein". These same types of fundamentalist Islamist terrorists have shown that they are happy to kill the innocents in Argentina, Madrid, London, the USA and even Mumbai. Have any of these victims killed around the world been involved in the current conflict in Gaza?
9/11, 7/7 and other such events are just a taste for the International Community of what will happen if this Hamas venom will be allowed to continue to sting us all and reach a new version of the Final Solution.
Working with Educators in Gaza
For several years I worked intensely with many educators and academics from Gaza and the West Bank. I have been in their own words- "a sister", "a true friend", "a pillar of strength", "a model of justice and morality". Amongst other small achievements I helped to obtain Norwegian funds to build the Abrahamic Study Centre for Women in Gaza. My photograph, at least until some time ago, was hanging in the entrance as a gesture of gratitude. I loved those with whom I worked and I cherished the gifts they have showered upon me and I constantly pray for them and their families` safety. However in my heart of hearts I am disappointed that the level-headed Gazians I know and am friendly with have allowed a terrorist group which has declared the total destruction of myself and my people as their goal, to rule over them.
One of the most important words in the Jewish vocabulary is"yizkor" (remembrance). We are obliged to see ourselves as a link in a chain and for the sake of survival and continuity remember the good and the bad events that happened to us personally and nationally. But our message has to go out to the entire civilised world as a warning and as a wake-up call to learn the lessons from the past. For this reason, the Spiro Ark often puts on our most meaningful events outside of our own centre or strictly Jewish locations.
Spiro Ark Works with Embassies and Foreign Missions
For the last few years, Spiro Ark has been working with many embassies and foreign missions; creating joint programmes around the date of the Holocaust. Those embassies often represent countries whose record of humanity towards Jews during the Holocaust has been less than pristine.
We work closely with the ambassadors and their senior staff, building joint programmes which strive to look honestly at their country's past while at the same time, showing a real wish to alter past wrongs by opening a new page of mutual understanding. The embassies invite their guests from the diplomatic core in London and representatives of their own countries who live here. Spiro Ark provides the Jewish list of invitees. Through this collaboration, together, we provide the opportunity for people to meet over a meaningful and moving event who might otherwise never had the opportunity to meet, and who normally would just suspect each other and never confront their fears and prejudices.
Below are a few examples of unique events -- we at the Spiro Ark are putting on in first month of 2009. Full details for all events mentioned in this article can be found at our Website at: www.spiroark.org.
11th January at 7.30 -- Hungarian Poets on the Holocaust including Miklós Radnóti, János Pilinszky and András Mezei
Poetry is a true sensitive attempt to understand the world in human terms and in a most concise literary format. Poems are the expression of inner thoughts. Hungarian Poets on the Holocaust
In his talk on January 11th at the Spiro Ark Centre, award -- winning Hungarian born poet George Gömöri, will be discussing a number of Hungarian poets who were either victims, or compassionate witnesses of the Holocaust.
Sunday, 18th January at 7.30 -- A Yiddish Winterise presented by Dr. Alexander Nap (piano) and Mark Glenville (bas baritone)
The Yiddish Winterise is a most powerful programme. It bases itself on the idea of Schubert's song cycle. This song cycle was specially divided to a sequence of 24 songs from the Yiddish popular and folk repertoire which evokes the emotional and physical journey taken by paradoxically one Badhan (a Jewish comic entertainer mainly in weddings in townlets in pre-war Eastern Europe). The specific context in this performance is the Holocaust.
29th January 2009 -- Music out of Oppression: Holocaust Requiem and Composers from Terezin. A Memorial Event Organised Jointly with the Slovak Embassy.
The artistic programme will be a cycle of moving songs written by Slovak and Jewish poets and composers whose work relates to the Holocaust. The evening will be concluded by a Kosher- vegetarian buffet-supper provided by the Slovak Embassy.
14th January 2009 -- Art Exhibition of O. Hofstadter.
The Spiro Ark is opening an exceptional art exhibition by O. Hofstadter who was a survivor of the Holocaust. This exhibition will take place at the Spiro Ark Gallery and will continue until April.
Making Holocaust Memorial Day More Meaningful
We do know that the Spiro Ark's creative efforts to bring about better understanding between Jews and non Jews are just a very small contribution. But even though our efforts represent just a tiny drop in an ocean of what can and should be done; let us encourage each and every one of us to add our own little drops of effort to make Holocaust Memorial Day a more meaningful experience and add it to this vast ocean of remembrance. After all, every ocean is indeed made of endless drops.
Director The Spiro Ark