01 May 2008

Yom HaShoah / יום השואה, Part 2

I planned my morning so that I would be out when the siren went off for Yom HaShoah, and I left my (ok, Meredith's) ubiquitous iPod at home, deciding that listening to my usual medley of comedy sketches, a capella and offensive rap music was not appropriate for Yom HaShoah. I waited for the bus for an exceedingly long time, and I had just flopped my way to the very back of the double-long vehicle when it screeched to a halt, just before the light where Rachel Imenu ends at Emek Refaim.

All of a sudden, it was 10AM. I've never been so sure of the time on the clock then I was at this moment, when every passenger on the bus stood up, at silent attention. I nudged open the bus window to hear the siren. It was much quieter and less disturbing than the disaster siren, but it was low, drawn-out and somber.

People froze up and down the street. Men and women paused at the street corner, freezing in place, with their legs posted mid-stride. I was not sure how people on the bus were going to react to the siren, so it was interesting to join them in standing up inside the bus. Behind the bus, drivers got out of trucks, cars and vans, and taxis stopped on both sides of Emek Refaim. Gazing out one side of the bus, I saw a religiously-dressed man standing at attention, while flipping through a newspaper, just inside the door to a falafel & schwarma joint on the street. On the other side of the bus, outside of a Japanese(ish) take-out place, a worker slowed his gait, as he set up chairs and tables on the sidewalk. He looked around, as if trying to find the source of the siren, and while he didn't stand at attention, he was definately paying attention.

Not prone to excesses of emotion, I felt the tug of sadness behind my eyes, but I did not cry. I simply got goosebumps, appreciating the country-wide silence, remembering the 6 million, thinking how so many of them, like me, were thinking of particular relatives they never met because of Hitler and the Nazis.

I was holding my camera when I sat down, and I snagged a few pictures of the "ceremony" as I am wont to do. What am I, if not an active anthropologist of my own life?

The siren stops, and the drivers quickly return to their vehicles. See that bus in the background? The driver got out and stood on the street, too.

Everybody on the bus stands at attention.

Somber silence on the bus. It was pretty crowded, but every person stood.

I ended up being very nicely placed for more social analysis. The siren stopped after what seemed like no time, but was apparently two minutes, and then we all sat down and were on our way onto Emek Refaim. I stared out of the windows at the people, sprung back into motion. The two guys that had stopped just before the crosswalk were talking to each other with great gusto. Just 10 feet to their right, a woman talked to two other people, as she smeared her mascara wiping tears from her reddened eyes and face. At the bus stop, people stood, glassy-eyed and frowny-faced. Through the window of Caffit, patrons could be seen daintily dabbing their eyes with Caffit's napkins, meant for their laps.

And then, it was over. The bus made its way through town, and it was business as usual on the street. People shoved by other people, the traffic jammed on King George Street. At school, ulpan was business as usual...except our readings and work were all about Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem) and the Shoah.

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