JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s prime minister and president invoked the Iranian threat during remarks at the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem.
Israel began the observance of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with the national ceremony Wednesday night at the Yad Vashem memorial. Yom Hashoah continues through sundown on Thursday.
"I believe in our ability to defend ourselves," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony. "People who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learned nothing from the Holocaust. To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth – that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people – that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons."
President Shimon Peres said, "Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late. Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.There is no reason to undermine Israel’s capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden."
Both leaders also expressed their sorrow at the death of Israeli soldier Hila Bezaleli, who was killed earlier in the day when lighting collapsed on a stage on Mount Herzl during a rehearsal for a Memorial Day ceremony scheduled for next week.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the chief Sephardi rabbi of Israel, intoned the Mourner’s Kaddish.
The central theme of the 2012 Yom Hashoah observance is "My Brother’s Keeper: Jewish Solidarity During the Holocaust."
At the national ceremony Wednesday, which was broadcast on all Israeli television channels, survivors lit six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Another ceremony will be held Thursday morning following the sounding of a siren for two minutes to honor the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
On Yom Hashoah in Israel, places of entertainment are closed and Holocaust themed-movies and documentaries are shown on all television channels. Memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.