Holocaust Memory in the Israeli Defense Forces

On 9 April, in the week leading up to Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018, a daylong seminar was held at Yad Vashem for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). General Staff Forum, headed by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eizenkot. During the seminar, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev presented the Chief-of-Staff with Kolchem Shamati (I Heard Your Voice), a special anthology to be used in discussions between commanders and their soldiers on the topic of Holocaust remembrance. The anthology was initiated by the IDF's Education and Youth Corps in cooperation with Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies.

Kolchem Shamati includes a range of texts and songs that enable a dialogue centered on ethics and values, and raise relevant questions for IDF soldiers today, such as: What memory is engraved in your mind? Where did you first encounter the story of the Holocaust? Which of the texts in the anthology touch you directly? And how do these voices echo into the future?

Kolchem Shamati enables the participants to listen to the voices and examine the words of both victims and survivors. This unique anthology presents texts written in the midst of the Holocaust – entreaties to remember, the destruction, the human spirit, the return to life, and appeals to the generations to come – writings that open a window to understanding how Jews experienced and understood the events at the time, when they did not know what the future held for them. The texts are combined with musical performances (accessible by scanning a QR code included in the anthology) of poems written by famous authors such as C.N. Bialik, Hannah Szenes and Leonard Cohen, which accompany the different topics of discourse. Listening to the music and reading the texts in groups creates a connection between the participants, enabling a meaningful dialogue on Holocaust memory.

"In recent years we have witnessed a welcome process in which many sections of Israeli society, including the IDF, are seeking to discover their own involvement in designing Holocaust memory," said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. "Kolchem Shamaticontains a fabric of voices, combining both written sources and Holocaust art with the legacy of the victims and the survivors. When participants touch the story of the individual during the Holocaust, it is possible to create a connection to the past from which we can fill our present and future with content and meaning."

"The Passover Haggada is based on the fundamental Jewish value 'vehigadta levnincha (and you should tell your child),'" explains IDF Chief Education Officer Brig. Gen. Yehuda (Zvika) Fairaizen. "The responsibility for transmitting the information is physical, from parent to child, and instigates a process of building memory that is seared in both the private and collective consciousness. Kolchem Shamati enables our officers and soldiers to discuss and internalize these eternal Jewish values that survived the Holocaust and were central to the rebirth of the Jewish State of Israel."

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Avner Shalev presenting the "Kolchem Shamati" anthology to IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.Yad Vashem