Thursday, April 22, 2010

Israel at 62: Liberty and Independence in Focus

by Kasey Barr

My husband and I attended the festivities at Park Ra'anana this week as Israel celebrated her Day of Independence or Yom Haatzmaut. It is preceded by somber days of remembrance - for the Holocaust and for the fallen soldiers. The celebrations of Independence are always festive, boisterous and joyful - not despite the days leading up to the birthday of the nation, but because of it. The whole country remembers the sacrifice and goes through a process of reflection that leads the people of Israel, especially the younger generation, to remember what this freedom and national holiday cost.

There seemed to be a million and one families at the park with children everywhere. Energetic music pumped through the park and a smorgasbord of food stands filled the air with the aroma of flame grilled meats that seems to accompany every event worth attending. The Mayor of Ra'anana, whom I like very much for his frequent visits to programs at the Absorption Center where I took ulpan, opened the evening with a moving prayer and then the residents of Ra'anana were treated to a ten-minute display of fireworks.

I caught something out of the corner of my eye that made me regret leaving my camera at home. In the swarm of Israeli flags and patriotic anthems sat a small group of Muslims. It isn't strange to see Muslims in Park Ra'anana, but it was interesting to see a family at an Independence celebration. The women wore headdresses and one of the men pulled out a rug and began praying - toward Mecca I imagine since it is not Jerusalem they consider their most sacred location.

My husband and I had a brief conversation about whether the Muslim man was thanking Allah he was in Israeli territory where his wives and daughters had more freedom and protection and where he has more opportunities and government services, or whether he was he pleading with Allah to cast the infidel nation into the sea? Who knows. We didn't try to ask. But we did take an additional moment to marvel at the nation we were celebrating.

Thousands of Israelis were commemorating the birth of their nation after 2,000 years of exile. Each Israeli is evidence of prophecy fulfilled, hopes realized and freedom found. There, in the middle of it all sat a group of religious people that, for the most part, feel Israel has no right to exist. Still, they are welcomed, they are undisturbed and they have the same freedom to dance, eat, buy and even cast down their prayer mats and ask Allah for who knows what. I find it extraordinary and exceptional here in Israel where there are daily threats of terrorist attacks monitored by the Israeli military. A few weeks ago a Palestinian sniper shot at a car on road number 443. Still the Muslims are welcome to attend Israeli Independence Day celebrations.

The international news focuses mainly on the fact that Netanyahu's government will not stop construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem while ignoring the fact that the Palestinian leadership of Hamas and hostile neighbors like Hezbollah still refuse to acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist. My home country, under the leadership of Obama, is now pushing to move Israel behind the 67 cease-fire lines and insisting on the establishment of a tolerant Palestinian state free of any Jewish presence and most likely bound for a government built upon Sharia law.

All this while Israel, inside the 67 borders has multiple thriving Muslim villages and allows freedom of worship, benefits and employment. There are Arabs in Israel's government and High Court.The narrative on Israel around the world is skewed and unjust. I love this country and am proud that one day I will have dual citizenship for two of the greatest nations in the world. Israel and America have been shining beacons of hope and strong bastions of freedom for immigrants around the world.

U.S. Presidents of both parties have expressed the deep convictions that bind the nations together. John F. Kennedy stated, "Israel was not created in order to disappear-Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom."

Ronald Reagan conveyed with conviction that "the people of Israel and America are historic partners in the global quest for human dignity and freedom [and] will always remain at each other's side."

William Clinton declared, "America and Israel share a special bond. Our relations are unique among all nations. Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, as a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted."

And George W. Bush, while visiting Israel stated, "Our two nations both faced great challenges when they were founded, and our two nations have both relied on the same principles to help us succeed. We've built strong democracies to protect the freedoms given to us by an Almighty God. We've welcomed immigrants, who have helped us thrive. We've built prosperous economies by rewarding innovation and risk-taking and trade. And we've built an enduring alliance to confront terrorists and tyrants."

The affinity for and fraternity with the Jewish nation was felt not only by recent presidents but by those who served before the state of Israel had yet to be reborn.

Calvin Coolidge expressed his "sympathy with the deep and intense longing which finds such fine expression in the Jewish National Homeland in Palestine."

And in a letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah in 1819, The second president of the United States, John Adams wrote, "I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . & marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation."

The values between the two nations are deeply shared and fiercely held in a way that made it not so very strange that many Israelis would hang the Stars and Stripes right next to their beloved flag on Israeli Independence Day. A significant number of Israeli drivers would put an Israeli flag on one window and an American flag on the other. I always appreciated it, though never quite understood it until it was conspicuously absent this year. I did not see one American flag on a car, apartment or business this year and I began to ask myself why it had been there in the past and why it was not there this year?

Without going into a list of political fall-outs between the two nations this year, I think it is obvious that America has pressured Israel in a way it has never done in the past. While Iran is threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" and Syria is allegedly sending Scud missiles to the region that can target any place in Israel, the President of the free world is scolding Israel for allowing "natural growth" in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem while Arabs in West Jerusalem have full rights to rent, buy, build and expand.

Something is awry and it is deeply disturbing. I know the decision by Israelis not to fly American flags means, in no way, that they are anti-American. I think it is more of a statement that they are prepared to go it alone if the United States fails to support the ideals and values upon which both nations were founded. They are exhibiting the same revolutionary spirit that once gripped America and every American should be proud...this one is.

Netanyahu stopped just short of making such a bold announcement. He opened the cabinet meetings this week with a quote by the founder of modern Zionism Theodore Herzl, "Don't rely on the help of foreigners, nor on benefactors. And do not expect stones to become soft because benefactors give humiliating donations. A nation that wants to stand upright must rely on itself alone"

I wish to encourage the Prime Minister for his stand and direct the nation of Israel on her 62nd birthday to this quote from one of the great American founders and voice of true classical liberalism, Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I am on my way to obtaining Israeli citizenship, but I have always considered myself and American first and Israeli second. However, thinking through this Independence Day has made me feel differently. I am a citizen of freedom first - wherever the boundary lines are drawn. I love America deeply, but I love the values that shaped her more. I hope the two nations will always stand shoulder to shoulder on the worldwide battlefront for freedom, but if not I refer again to Benjamin Franklin who wrote in a letter to Benjamin Vaughn in 1783, "Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

Here's hoping that I will always be holding the passports of both countries!

This article first published by Travelujah and post by Jerusalem Post.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Liberators and witnesses:
Voices from the past preserve record of the Holocaust

by Taylor Innes

I had always heard talk within my family that my great uncle was a “liberator” of a Nazi concentration camp, or at least a witness to the atrocities committed there. After some recent inquiries with relatives back home, it appears that he indeed visited Dachau in the last days of World War II and wrote of the experience in a letter to his mother sent from Augsburg, Austria in September 1945.

John Thomas Whetstone, Jr. of Holt, Alabama was a corporal serving in the US Army’s air forces in Europe, where he spent most of the war in England working as a grounds crewman for a squadron of B-25 bombers. Just after VE-Day (marking Victory in Europe), his squadron was redeployed to Austria for the conversion of a former Nazi air base to Allied use. It was in Austria that he wrote his mother about what he witnessed at the Dachau death camp just days earlier.

Last Monday I went to Dachau. You have probably heard of that place I am sure. If you are not familiar with that name it is one of the most notorious concentration camps that Germany had. It is only 25 miles from here and when our 7th army captured it there were 32,000 poor people from Poland, etc. in it. The SS troops succeeded in shooting some 14,000 of them before the Yanks could stop it. While there I saw the gas chambers which looked to be shower baths, the crematories where people were cremated and a lot of other things that I won’t write about at all. Mama, these German people were no doubt the meanest people in all the world. I am very glad that I did go there but I don’t want to go back. Things at that Dachau Concentration Camp just make me shudder to think about them...”

The original letter in hand, I set out recently to donate it to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem. They also opened their archives to me to research more accounts of American soldiers who helped to liberate the death camps. Given that much of the world will be commemorating the more than six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, here is a sampling of the first-hand testimonies one can find at Yad Vashem from the liberators and witnesses who bore record of this most tragic episode in human history.

Norman Brody, born in Washington, D.C. to Yiddish-speaking parents originally from Eastern Europe, joined the US Army in February 1943 and was deployed overseas. After participating in the invasion of Sicily, he was deployed to southern France in August 1944 and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. He wrote:

"I had vaguely heard that something was happening to the Jews but I didn’t know what until we arrived at a concentration camp near Landsberg, Germany, in April 1945. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Human beings, or what used to be human beings, were lying in piles in the center of the place. Others who were able to walk were emaciated, just skin and bones. I spoke Yiddish to the survivors. Their response reminds me of what Martin Luther King used to say: ‘Free at last, free at last!’”

Allen Cohen, an electrical engineer originally from New York City, served as a rifleman in the 45th Infantry Division and was a liberator of Dachau.

"Up to the last minute, the Nazis were killing inmates. I saw 1000 bodies waiting to be cremated. The bodies of the dead were still warm. The survivors were lying on the ground waiting for the Lord to take them. All the American soldiers were really angry after seeing these atrocities. Most of the survivors were Jews. There were some Poles, including some priests. The priests were allowed to wear their cassocks rather than the striped uniforms worn by other prisoners… I was in the Dachau area for three months after the war ended. Just about every German civilian I met in town said he or she did not know what was going on. Although they heard some screaming near the railroad tracks, they turned their heads away. They didn’t want to become involved.”

Dan Evers from New Jersey served in the 286th Combat Engineer Battalion and was sent overseas in 1944.

“I hadn’t heard much about concentration camps. My unit arrived in Dachau in April 1945, quite by accident. I was shocked at what I saw. The place was a mess. Bodies and bones were lying around. The gas chamber door was closed, but the ovens were still open. There was a sign in German overhead which said: ‘Wash your hands after work.’ I saw more dead than living. I was there only a few hours, and my strongest recollection is the smell of death. I don’t recall meeting any living Jews. I stayed in the area until the end of 1945 and had numerous occasions to speak to people living near Dachau. They always claimed to be innocent.”

Searching through all these testimonials, one underlying theme that really stood out was how the local Germans turned their heads away from the evil taking place just next door. So one important lesson of the Holocaust is to never turn away from anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance. How sorely is this needed in the face of the hatred of Jews espoused today by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who incessantly calls for the destruction of Israel even while he denies the Holocaust.

With remarkable foresight, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he encountered the victims of the Nazi genocide at the end of World War II, ordered that pictures and footage be taken of the death camps to preserve the record for history lest someone should deny its existence one day. He also ordered that local German residents were to be made to file through the camps and to help bury the dead bodies so they would confront, up close and personal, the evil perpetrated in their midst.

"Get it all on record now – get the films, get the witnesses – because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened," said Eisenhower.

“The Holocaust started before extermination camps were functioning,” according to Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, a special office set up to engage with Christians regarding the Shoah.

"It did not start from where it ultimately ended. The Holocaust was a process and in order to understand its lessons we need to focus on how the process worked. The Holocaust came to happen through gradual steps and choices from anti-Jewish attitudes all the way to genocide,” she recently told The Christian Edition.

This article was first published for the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

'Now we are safe': ICEJ donates more bomb shelters to communities near Gaza

-by Taylor Innes
first published for ICEJ's publication Word from Jerusalem

The war between Israel and the Hamas terror militia in Gaza ended in January one year ago, but for the students at the ORT Amit technical high school in Ashkelon, it wasn’t long before it started back up again. An advanced Grad rocket landed in the school’s courtyard a few weeks later, sending shrapnel in all directions and severely damaging the building.

Thankfully, the strike occurred on a Saturday, when the teenagers were home for Shabbat. But it struck in the very spot where the IDF Southern Command had advised the students to hide in case of a rocket attack. A sign was soon erected in the courtyard saying: “A great miracle happened here!”

The structure was quickly rebuilt and today the courtyard is brightened by paintings of biblical figures on the walls. However, the strike was a bitter reminder to the city of Ashkelon and surrounding Israeli communities that Hamas has its own understanding of what a ‘ceasefire’ is.

“Most military analysts don’t talk about if there will be another war but when”, IDF spokesman Capt. Kory Bardash told a delegation from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem visiting the Gaza border area last month on the one-year anniversary of the end of Operation Cast Lead. He warned that Hamas has spent the past year of ‘quiet’ rearming itself with four times as many rockets as before, including thousands of improved Iranian-made rockets with larger ranges and payloads than their homemade Kassams.

One of the first stops of the ICEJ tour was to the courtyard of the ORT Amit high school in Ashkelon, where city officials underscored the growing threat they face.

“We have 20 institutes here like kindergartens and schools that still don’t have any kind of shelter”, deputy mayor Shlomo Grande told the delegation. “We tell the students to hide under the desk… but practically it means nothing, because I have seen what happens to desks in a rocket attack.”

“Every day, I expect an attack; pretty much every minute of every day. They [Hamas] don’t need a reason… This is my experience”, added Yossi Greenfield, the municipality’s security chief.

The ICEJ had offered Ashkelon a large 70-ton portable bomb shelter which can hold up to 50 people for a city school, and they decided ORT Amit would be first in line. A city of 125,000 only ten kilometres from Gaza City, Ashkelon suffered 200 rocket strikes during Cast Lead and they know their town will be a main target in the next conflict. So dozens more bomb shelters are desperately needed, despite recent reports that the new Iron Dome anti-rocket system will soon be deployed along the border.

An Iron Dome has been designed to shoot down short-range rockets but is only effective if the projectile is in the air for at least 30 seconds, to allow the system’s advanced radar to find, track and intercept the incoming rocket. That means communities closer to the Gaza border are still vulnerable, and Iron Dome cannot guarantee protection even for towns farther away.

“There are some estimates that in the next conflict, both from the north and the south there will be over 300 rockets emanating a day and no system anywhere is able to stop all of them. But bomb shelters will save lives. It can’t be stated enough, it’s not just the saving of lives that is important with these shelters, it’s being able to live a normal life”, stressed Bardash.

The Ashkelon officials have also been informed that active rocket defences are not enough and that more bomb shelters are needed. With this in mind, the government is providing shelters to locations within a five kilometre radius of the Gaza border, but outside that line the communities are largely on their own.

With help from organisations like the Christian Embassy, Operation Lifeshield took a lead role in recent years in protecting vulnerable communities in the Gaza periphery by placing 60 portable bomb shelters from Sderot southward to the Sinai border, and is now working its way northward from the Erez Crossing up towards Ashkelon and Ashdod.

The ICEJ delegation watched as a heavy crane lifted one of its four newly donated shelters into place at a kindergarten in Talmeh Yaffe, a small moshav just seven kilometres from Erez. Two more shelters were delivered to a community center and adjacent youth center in nearby Mavqi’im. Otherwise, all these facilities would be forced to close down in times of conflict.

As the 18 excited youngsters at the Talmeh Yaffe kindergarten filed into the shelter for a first look, one child asked the teacher: “Why is the shelter here?”

“Because they chose us!” replied the teacher. “Now we are safe!”

It made a heart-warming day for the Christian visitors.

“Seeing these little children having a safe place to run to and the peace of mind that brings to their parents really brings home what we are doing with these shelters”, said ICEJ Executive Director Malcolm Hedding. “We simply believe that Israelis have the right to live here in peace and security.”

Taylor Lee Innes is a staff writer for the Media Department of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bring Civility to Travel with Easey-2-Pick

Israel In Our Day Listen online:

Reported by Shalle McDonald
Written by Kasey Barr

We can thank Israeli innovation for many of our modern, life improving, technical gadgets upon which so many of us rely today – including the cell phone, disk-on-key storage devices and more. Recently Israel 21C listed “Israel’s top ten must have gadgets.” Among the ten was a revolutionary travel device called, “Easy-2-Pick.” Front Page featured this device as it was being developed in 2008, today Easy-2-Pick is now available for purchase and is a “must have,” at least among frequent flyers.

Retired IDF colonel Yoav Ben-David and his partner Zvi Kanor from American Express Travel in Tel Aviv have come up with an electronic device to connect passengers to their luggage through radio frequency and thus avoiding the unpleasant push and shove that comes when weary travelers expend their last bit of strength to wrestle humans, machines and the countless lot of black suitcases to secure their personal possessions.

Easy-2-Pick is an electronic luggage tag about the size of a credit card which transmits to a small, circular receiver carried by the passenger. When the luggage tag is within 12-15 meters of the receiver it begins to transmit a signal alerting the traveler that his luggage is nearby.

The idea came to Ben-David when, like so many other Israelis, he faced a situation he was sure that modern technology could solve with the right innovative thinking.

“Passengers were pushing each other and there was total chaos,” he recalled in an interview with Israeli press. “I thought for sure there had to be a better way of waiting for one's luggage, without the stress.”

And so he and Kanor set out to work with the Israeli electronics industry to come up with a transmitter and receiver that would work on a special algorithm.

“The first step was getting the credit-card-sized transmitter to 'talk' to its receiver, a circular device that fits neatly in-hand. The next step was to get different ones to talk to different receivers,” Kanor told Israel21C, allowing for a time when many travelers will opt for this technology. They also had to work with Airports in order to transmit at a frequency that would not interfere with airport infrastructure.

Today the technology is ironed out and all a traveler has to do is attach a smart tag to his suitcase and keep the remote in your pocket or purse. Once the traveler is in the baggage claim area, the technology works at a distance up to 60 feet away. It is possible to sit back, relax and wait for the remote to signal you with beeps, flashes and vibrations. No more wading through a sea of suitcases.

Easy-2-Pick is now available online and in select stores. It retails for around 25 to 30 dollars. Traveling today can be complicated and full of frustration. While Easy-2-Pick may not make security checks less stressful, seats less cramped and boxed food a little tastier, this smart device is sure to bring more civility to your world, at least around the luggage carousel and in baggage claims across the globe.

Additional Resources:
Israel21C -

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Intubation Solutions:
Israeli Innovation Continues to Improve Emergency Medicine

Reported by Shalle McDonald for Front Page Jerusalem

Israelis are renown world-wide for their skills and innovation in the field of emergency medicine, as was demonstrated in the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake. An upcoming Israeli invention is poised to make another significant improvement in emergency care that will have patients and first-responders breathing easier.

Endo-Tracheal Intubation (ETI) is one of the most common procedures used in emergency medicine and anesthesiology. It is utilized to establish an airway when a patient fails to breathe independently. In the U.S. alone, there are over 25 million ETI procedures annually.

According to the emergency guidelines of the American Heart Association, intubation should not last longer than thirty seconds. Longer intubation procedures put patients in danger of hypoxia with consequent death or irreversible brain damage.

Today's laryngoscope medical devices have no means for calculating time. Yuval Bar, Israeli inventor, businessman and former paramedic, is working hard to change that.

Bar worked for more than 6 years as a paramedic for Israeli Magen David Adom and served as a medical instructor for emergency care at Tel Aviv Medical Center. He also participated in several international humanitarian medical missions organized by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While training his students and foreign colleagues to provide emergency care, Mr. Bar found a simple yet elegant solution to the timing issue, a built-in timing device on the laryngoscope. He quickly filed a patent and built a team to transform his idea into a life-saving device.

“For a surgeon in the safe, controlled environment of an operating room, the lack of a timing device is not so critical. But for emergency providers such as a medic on the battlefield or a paramedic on the road, it could mean the difference between life and death.” Bar told FrontPage.

The malpractice research project of the American Society of Anesthesiologists demonstrates the lack of a timing device makes intubation procedures prone to dangerous mistakes. Analyses of 2,000 malpractice claims reveal that prolonged and persistent intubation attempts were the most common events that led to catastrophic respiratory events including brain damage and death.

Dr. Pinchas Halpern, Chairman of the Tel Aviv Medical Center's Emergency Department quickly joined the venture. With over 30 years of experience in the EMS field, he saw the potential medical and financial value the patent. Avraham Jaeger serves as Marketing consultant and engineer Ronny Shabbat, joined the team to help construct a prototype with funds awarded to Mr. Bar by TNUFA, Israel's Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor.

Bar now holds a second patent for what he termed the “Smart Blade,” a larygoscope fitted with a pulse oximeter monitor placed on the blade which will instantly indicate the patients values of oxygen saturation on the device.

Bar established, Intubation Solutions LTD (, and is in the phase of seeking investment partners to begin manufacturing. The U.S. Army and American EMS suppliers have already expressed enthusiastic interest.

“Several suppliers want to orders” said Bar, “We just need investments to begin production,” Despite the global economic downturn, Bar remains determined to get his start-up company off the ground and his devices to market.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Roses from Sderot

by Taylor Innes

During the past eight years, Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip have been bombarded by over 10,000 Kassam rockets fired by Hamas, leaving these border towns with only 15 seconds to find shelter. But Yaron Bob, a 38-year old local computer teacher and blacksmith from Moshav Yated, has decided to turn the constant battle against terror into a positive.

Yaron Bob began taking spent Kassam shells collected at the police station in Ofakim and, using his artistic talents, began shaping the scrap metal into the shape of beautiful roses. He heats the metal shrapnel until it glows bright orange and then hammers and fashions it on his anvil into lovely rose shapes.

His roses have suddenly become a message of hope that is impacting hearts throughout the world. Some have even been delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and US Sen. John Kerry.

“I had close encounters with two rockets that fell within 5 to 10 meters from me,” Bob recently told The Christian Edition. “I wanted to make something beautiful and good out of this disaster. I thought about what I could do and thought roses are beautiful. I will create roses out of the Kassam rockets as a new symbol of hope.”

During the recent Feast of Tabernacles celebration for Christians in Jerusalem, Bob reserved an exhibitor’s booth through the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to see if there was any interest in his unique “product” – and indeed there was. One Feast pilgrim from California was thrilled to buy one of the roses.

“It represents great art. Not only is it artistically unique but it has redemptive value. Hopefully it is the beginning of us humans finally beginning to beat our swords into plowshares as the Bible tells us will eventually happen,” said David Schlosberg. “Everybody loses in war and so we must re-learn to follow the gospel of peace and take up swords no more. I commend the Jewish artist who made this piece of peace.”

“In the end of all our struggles, all the people in the world need to know the Jewish people are starving for peace. Everybody wants to live in peace, harmony and quiet. This is the bottom line,” Bob said.

This article was first published for the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

International Holocaust Memorial Day

By Kasey Barr
First published for Travelujah at

This morning I picked up the Jerusalem Post to read the headline, "PM expected to draw connections between Iran's nukes and Holocaust." The article goes on to quote other leaders. "Merkel to Peres in Berlin: "Teheran's time is up." Today is the official United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day and also the anniversary of the historic liberation of Auschwitz.  I expected to see historic articles throughout the paper, but the main thrust of today's headlines is a, not so subtle, warning that a second holocaust is waiting around the corner if the world does not act in some measure, and very quickly.

I find it eerie that on this day that we remember the atrocities of the past, we are confronted with a present day threat that could potentially kill more people in a few minutes then Hitler and his SS guards did in several years.  On Tuesday, at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu wrote in the guestbook, "The people of Israel have learned their lesson." I do not doubt his words, but I question whether the world has learned its lesson as well.


This past summer I visited Dachau concentration camp right outside of Munich. It was my first visit to a concentration camp memorial. There is much to say on this subject, but that is for another blog on another day. But I remember feeling like I had stepped onto the set of some horror movie. The heinous acts that were done there make the rational mind swim and finally go numb. I didn't cry as I made my way through the man-made hell. I thought that the walks through the cramped housing units, gas chambers and crematorium would be very emotional, but I found that my senses were frozen. It was not until after I was away from it all that I could sort through my feelings. Even now, I have not fully unpacked the experience.


Toward the end of the tour, my group was lead to a large stone memorial with the words "Never Again" written in English, Hebrew, French, German and Russian. "Never Again." I feel that our world is so detached from the atrocities and is so certain that the modern, educated world citizens of today could never return to such barbarism. But it was the most modern and educated people who masterminded the holocaust. Wishing hatred away has never been a successful strategy as history proves again and again.

I would like to believe the world has learned its lesson. But if it has not, have the Christians learned theirs? I often wonder what I would have done had I lived as a European Christian during the Second World War. Would I have been like Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jewish people in her home and marched bravely to a concentration camp when she and her family were caught? Could I have publically spoken against Hitler like German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose involvement in a plot to overthrow Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution in 1945.

Or would I be part of the silent mass of Christians who quietly dissented from Hitler. Those who abhorred his government, his policies and his practices but who would never scratch below the surface afraid of what they might find. Would I have been content to be dissatisfied but passive?

The answer may come more quickly than I would like. We may all have a decision to make very soon. We do live in a period in history where there is virulent hatred toward Israel and her Jewish citizens and where there is a madman spewing numerous promises to wipe Israel from the map. The scenario, while similar to WWII, is different. Our response cannot be the same. We are not Germans and the man making speeches of hatred is not our leader. How do we respond?

I wish I knew. But one thing I do know is that when we are faced with Anti-Semitism of any kind, we must speak out. When the nation of Israel is verbally attacked for the crime of existing, we must answer in defense.  And if ever called upon to shoulder the burden of the Jewish people, we must be ready.

 It was Deitrich Bonhoeffer who said, "It is the fellowship of the cross to experience the burden of the other. If one does not experience it, the fellowship he belongs to is not Christian. If any member refuses to bear that burden, he denies the law of Christ."

If any man has a right to make such a bold statement it is he. As I honor this day of rememberance, it is my earnest prayer that if confronted with the choice, we Christians will answer as strongly as the Corrie Ten Booms and Bonhoeffers who have gone before us.

 "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. Proverbs 24:11-12