In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel paused on Tuesday to remember the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Across the country, sirens blared for two minutes, while the few pedestrians who were out in public despite lockdown restrictions paused, and drivers pulled their cars over on streets and highways.
Israel has been under strict lockdown measures for more than a month in efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with most public life shut down, and many people working from home or out of work. Others observed a moment of silence at homes from their balconies. According to the Finance Ministry, 75 years after the end of World War II, there are still 189,500 Holocaust survivors in Israel. About 70 percent of them are above age 80 — making them particularly at risk from the Covid-19 disease as long as there is no vaccination. “In this challenging period, when quarantine is necessary to protect their health, it is important that Holocaust survivors in particular, and the entirety of the older generation know that they are not alone,” said Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz in a speech on Tuesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also posted a pre-recorded message on Tuesday commemorating survivors of the Holocaust. More than 13,880 people are confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, with the country’s death toll at 181, according to the Health Ministry. More than 4,350 have recovered, the ministry added. Many institutions and museums were holding online ceremonies to mark the event. The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem had streamed a state opening ceremony that was recorded without an audience on Monday night online, with translation in five languages. Yad Vashem invited people from around the world to participate in a virtual name-reading ceremony by recording themselves reciting the names of victims and sharing the video on social media. “Although the circumstances this year are unique, the message is still the same: We will never forget them,” said chairman Avner Shalev. The coastal city of Tel Aviv was promoting online events, such as sharing survivors’ stories on Facebook. It was announced last month that a traditional memorial march between the Auschwitz I and Birkenau death camps that usually takes place on Holocaust Remembrance Day had been cancelled for the first time.
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