It is now 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps and concentration camps. The liberation marked the end of the Holocaust, during which some six million Jews were murdered. This evening marked the start of Yom Hashoah v'Hagvurah in Israel - Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. We began our commemoration of the day by attending the City of Ra'anana's Yom Hashoah ceremony at the centre of the city - "Yad L'Banim."
On the evening of Yom Hashoah, stores and restaurants are closed across the country. The main street in Ra'anana is closed off to traffic. Residents come from across the city to the ceremony, which is very powerful.
The event included a speech by Ra'anana's Mayor Ze'ev Bielski, whose grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. His young parents had left years before the war began to travel to Israel to help build the not yet established state. He was named after his late grandfather. It was a powerful speech. He spoke about his participation in the March of Living in Poland. He recalled that as he had sat at the main March of the Living ceremony in Poland a few years ago, he had wrapped himself in a Tallith. He had looked across at the Polish dignitaries who were in attendance and he had felt pride at participating in an event which recognized that Jewish pride and the Jewish people had not been defeated. Despite the fact that one third of the world's Jews were murdered, the surviving Jewish people had found a way to establish the State of Israel and to embark on a rebuilding process.
Six Holocaust survivors were called up individually to light six different candles. As each survivor came to the podium, usually accompanied by grandchildren, a narrator described the survivor's life story. These were all people who had lost almost all of their families in the Holocaust. They were also almost all people who had come to Israel after the war, married and established families with children, grandchildren and in some cases, great grandchildren. Some were accompanied by grandchildren who now serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. The theme echoed the theme of the Mayor's speech. That despite the terrible ordeals that these survivors had faced, they had, each in their own way, and against incredible odds, made it to Israel and participated in building the Jewish state and rebuilding the Jewish nation.
The ceremony also featured several musical pieces, with orchestral accompaniment including a Czech piece that had been written by Thereisenstadt prisoner who had perished in 1944. Her musical composition had somehow been preserved and was now being performed in Ra'anana some 70 years after the liberation of the camp.
After the special El Maleh Rachamim prayer, the evening closed with a power Hatikvah sung by a teary eyed crowd.
It was really one of those ceremonies that brought home the great fortune of being able to live and participate in a Jewish state, something that would have been unimaginable to the Jews of Europe during wartime.
Tomorrow, Israelis across the country will observe two minutes of silence, wherever they are, as sirens wail across the nation to mark the time.
The thought on the minds of many Israelis will be the enormous burden, responsibility and obligations of being the next generation of Jewish people - faced with preserving, continuing and strengthening the Jewish people, while defending the country against the existential threats it faces. It is now up to this and future generations to ensure that "Never Again" is a reality.