Day 3: The Solution: Listen

Cohort X – April 28, 2022

By William Young

So much is taken for granted, and we filter out so many sounds each day.

Today, Yom HaShoah, was spent learning the importance of pausing to listen.  First, the siren was incredibly powerful.  For two minutes, all other noise was overwhelmed by the air raid siren, a noise I had never before heard but will never forget.  The duration and solemnity are staggering; it is impossible to overstate how incredible it is for everyone to collectively stop, pause, and reflect in unison.

The listening, however, did not cease with the siren.  At Testimony House, we were privileged to listen to Mogdi’s statement about her experiences during the Holocaust, including trying to check on her grandfather only to have her mother and sister vanish as she stepped away from the line, and then surviving Auschwitz only to be led on a death march in the closing days of World War II.

Her stories are remarkable, must be shared, so that they may never be forgotten.  While at Testimony House, we also listened to learn that many Israeli Jews who were not Holocaust survivors did not fully grasp (perhaps because the facts were truly unfathomable) the horrors the perpetrated by the Nazis until the public testimony given during the trial of Adolf Eichmann.  It was only by listening that the reality was grasped.

A few hours later, we heard the recent experiences of six Ukrainian refugees recently arrived in Israel.  One refugee told us that his father lived here in Israel and, as a Russian Jew, often watches Russian news.  Despite his own son recently arriving as a refugee, the father scoffed at his son’s on-the-ground stories in Ukraine as “Fake News.”

The parallels between the Eichmann trial and current Russian disinformation are striking:  in both cases those sharing their story are being told by others that their story is incomplete or inaccurate.  The solution: listen.

Finally, our day concluded with a remarkable experience in which we broke into small groups with Israelis to discuss the Shoah and how it is remembered both in Israel and elsewhere.  The discussion was enlightening with polite (and passionate) disagreements about how best to preserve the memory of the Shoah.  Points were made, disagreements were had, but, most importantly, we listened.

By learning so much, by challenging my thoughts, by consciously listening today, I was left with one question:  On the days when I am not so intentional about listening, what haven’t I heard?