International Holocaust Memorial Day


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17 Feb 2016
International Holocaust Memorial Day
The 27th of January each year marks International Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorating the Soviet Army's liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, on that day in 1945. Whilst it is a solemn occasion, this year was also a particularly special one for the Holocaust survivors of the ICEJ's Home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa, as they had the unique opportunity to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The next day included another meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
A group of 15 Holocaust residents of the Haifa Home, escorted by ICEJ Aid Director Nicole Yoder, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at his Tel-Aviv office on 26 January.  It would be an understatement to say that the survivors were excited to meet Mr. Netanyahu- many said that they had never imagined in their wildest dreams that they would have the chance to meet the Prime Minister of the country closest to their hearts. 
Whilst the residents were full of excitement to meet Mr. Netanyahu, it was clear that this feeling was mutual. The Prime Minister expressed his honor and feeling of privilege to meet the people who did so much to build up the Jewish state. Mr. Netanyahu listened attentively as he gave each one of the survivors the chance to recount their story to him, with his limitless respect for them etched upon his face. Following this, the Prime Minister memorably told them that when he sees them, he feels more than ever that the Jewish People is alive - “Am Yisrael Chay”. 
He also bestowed lofty praise on the Haifa Home for the incredibly vital work it does for the heroes of Israel. During the visit, he also thanked the Christian Embassy several times for blessing the Nation of Israel through the support of Christians worldwide. The result was an unforgettable experience for the residents. When word got around through the Israeli media about their special meeting with the Prime Minister, they were delighted to make known that their phones had not stopped ringing thanks to calls from excited family members overflowing with pride.
As if the thrill of meeting with the Prime Minister was not enough, the next day on International Holocaust Memorial Day itself, the residents set out to meet the President of Israel at his residence in Jerusalem. They were first treated to a luxury reception, including the chance to have photos taken in the opulent rooms of the President’s Residence which regularly hosts heads of state and other international dignitaries. 
When President Rivlin arrived he greeted the survivors with warmth and a full heart, and there was a striking unspoken bond between the survivors and their country’s President, with many of the survivors hugging Mr. Rivlin in a display of overwhelming excitement and appreciation towards him. Rivlin explained to the survivors that while thinking back to the events of the Holocaust brings such sorrow and pain, he also was able to feel such hope for the future of Israel by seeing them.
Like Netanyahu, President Rivlin did not hold back in his praise for the monumentally important purpose that the Haifa Home serves, and in response the Haifa Home’s director Mr. Shimon Sabag thanked the President for sharing with the Holocaust survivors what had been for them a day to live long in the memory. 


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