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Daniel Gordis

What Israel Owes Holocaust Survivors

History has a sanctity in Israel that's shared almost nowhere else in the world.
Words still fail us.

Words still fail us.

Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

In 1943, as news of Nazi atrocities began to spread, the Ukrainian-born Hebrew writer, Haim Hazaz, published “The Sermon.” The story’s main character is Yudka, a kibbutz member usually reticent to speak. One evening, though, Yudke erupts with a speech that has become an Israeli classic.

“I want to state,” Yudka says, “that I am opposed to Jewish history. ... We didn’t make our own history, the goyim made it for us. ... What is there in it? Oppression, defamation, persecution, martyrdom. I would simply forbid teaching our children Jewish history. Why the devil teach them about their ancestors’ shame? I would just say to them: ‘Boys, from the day we were exiled from our land we’ve been a people without a history. Class dismissed. Go out and play soccer.’”