Archive for November, 2011

Yad Vashem

I have just returned from a week in Israel. A relative/friend donated funds to the Weizmann Institute for postgraduate studies in Science, which were used to develop a magnificent convention centre for visitors from all over the world to meet, interact, exchange ideas and break scientific boundaries. It was fascinating and uplifting to meet world famous philanthropists and Nobel prize winners as well as brilliant young scientists doing groundbreaking work in so many fields. All of them working to make things better for humanity.

Compare that with my next day spent at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. My first visit in years, but each time I am freshly horrified. There are no words to describe the inhumanity perpetrated a mere seventy or so years ago. The images, the stories, the shoes, the letters, the clothes are unforgettable, a reminder of humanity’s darkest hour.

How I value the quality of intellect, but used for the methodical destruction of a nation and to create division, it is hideous. How I value the quality of charisma, , but used for dark reasons, it is repugnant. How I admire those who have the courage to step into power, but used without a moral compass, it is abhorrent. How I value the quality of passion, but used to stoke the flames of hatred, its dangerous.

INSANITY . What happened was en masse insanity. A testimony to how far astray we can go when we listen to our head and not the deeper whisperings of our heart.

But then I started thinking, how far have we really come since this time? There have been other holocausts. What do we, as humanity, learn when we go through these shocking experiences? What do the perpetrators learn ? What do the victims learn? What new qualities emerge? Do we value the sanctity of life more now? Do we honour those whose views conflict with ours? Are we kinder to those who look different or speak differently? Do we fight for the oppressed? Do we speak out against injustice or do we turn the other cheek ? Are we still blinded by charisma and power and intellect and not ask too many questions? Are we attracted to people who are well known , even if they are infamous ? Do we teach our children tolerance? Do we respect our neighbours? Do we live and let live?

Well I cannot answer for anyone else except myself. When I walk past a beggar at the side of the road, my tenth of the day, my heart hardens and I angrily ignore him. How does that make me different to the seemingly well dressed Europeans walking past starving and freezing Jewish children at the side of the road? Do I fail humanity when I keep silent in the face of any kind of oppression , racist comment or discrimination. It makes me realize that we have such a long way to go. Each and every one of us, and until we can see that every choice matters, those to speak up and those to turn the other cheek , we run the risk of repeating the holocaust. Different century , different role players, same issue.

In this blog I want to honour my dear friend Debbie Mankowitz. For having the courage to speak out against misinformation, to debate issues, fight for justice and not roll over and play dead just because it was not really happening here. Now I understand Debbs and I am proud to be your friend.

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