Last month, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said that the state of Israel should be wiped off the map. He has put the spotlight again on the virulent hatred that exists for the Jewish state among some in the Muslim world. Iran is an Islamic state and, despite some apparent moderation in recent years, Ahmadinejad's statement reveals what Iran might do if it had a nuclear weapon at its disposal.
In international relations, nations have no choice but to accept at face value the statements made by a head of state. In this case, it is crystal clear what Ahmadinejad's words mean, despite some backpedaling by other Iranian government officials.
While on a visit to Israel this month, I had a moving visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Israel has added two elements to this memorial in the western part of the city since my last visit here 34 years ago.
The Children's Memorial is the most stunning memorial to the memory of the dead that I have ever experienced. You walk into a circular room with a column of candles magnified by glass and mirrors into an infinite number of points of light, representing the 1.5 million children killed in the Nazi Holocaust. A voice reads off the names of the children while you are left to contemplate the memory of those who perished.
I found myself asking, "How does God hold the memory of the deceased till the time of the resurrection?" Is it like a point of light reserved and awaiting the time when the Creator will cast His breath into the flame and bring back the fullness of life? It is just a thought—standing in this magnificent memorial caused me to wonder at this touching way of honoring the dead.
We left a stone of remembrance on the arms of the children depicted in a sculpture outside this room.
A museum has also been added that takes you through the history of anti-Semitism and the roots of the modern holocaust. Included are many artifacts from the concentration camps and the ghettos of Eastern Europe where the Jews lived. One poignant display held the personal family photos of a group of 200 Jews massacred in Estonia just a few days before Soviet troops liberated the Klooga Camp. Knowing their fate, they put in their pockets the personal items that formed the record of their lives destroyed by the Nazi tyranny. As they met their fate, they wanted to be near the photographic memory of those they loved in life.
Before leaving Jerusalem we visited the Jerusalem International YMCA, one of the little-known jewels in this city. The director general gave us a tour of the facility and showed us a new condominium development going up behind the building on land being leased to a building developer. The million-dollar condos are being purchased in advance by French Jews who want to immigrate to Israel out of fear of anti-Semitism in France. Sadly, Jews are still fleeing Europe.
Comments by the Iranian president remind us that hatred still exists in our world, the kind of hatred that could again erupt into another holocaust. For those who visit Yad Vashem, there is always the reminder that it happened once in our time. God forbid it happens again.