March for the Future
By Phyllis Greenberg Heideman
If we are to believe, as many great philosophers do, that we are products of our experiential knowledge, it is then imperative to analyze and accept our life experiences as integral to who we are, what we believe and how we behave.
It is with this philosophy in mind that I believe it is of the utmost importance that we as the Jewish people understand who we were and where we have been yesterday, in order to understand who and where we are today and who and where we want to be tomorrow.
As the daughter of an émigré born in Poland and raised in Tel Aviv, my ties to Israel since my birth have been close, emotional and poignant. Each of my many trips has been a fulfilling, comfortable, exciting homecoming. Each visit since my first in 1958 has brought with my arrival a newfound appreciation for that which the Jewish People have been able to overcome, endure and make flourish.
We are a People on a mission; a mission to not only survive but to succeed and excel.
In my lifetime, we have taken our ancestral homeland to unimaginable heights and we have witnessed the welcome of our people from every corner of the planet to the Land of Israel, the homeland to all Jews.
For the past several years, the end of Passover has come to mean the beginning of my two-week journey to Poland and Israel with the International March of the Living, a modern-day continuation of the Exodus of our ancestors.
We take a step back in time to remember, dignify and pay tribute to Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust.
Once again, in observance of Yom HaShoah, over 10,000 individuals - teenagers and adults, lay people and professionals, Rabbis, educators and dignitaries - from communities around the world will participate on the March of the Living and march en masse from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
We stand together as part of a shared commitment not only to the past, to those who perished and those who survived, but a personal commitment to help ensure a brighter, safe and secure future for all. The emotions and passions evoked in actually walking amongst the ashes of Auschwitz, Majdanek or Treblinka can never and will never be replaced by any other human experience.
Each year, I am once again be privileged to be among those who will march to keep alive the memory of those who perished and to proclaim publicly our commitment to the State of Israel and the future of the Jewish People.
Following the emotional March of the Living experience in Poland, we continue our journey in Israel. On Yom HaAtzmaut, we begin our activities with a spirited Zionist concert in Safra Square as a prelude to our march through the streets of Jerusalem and into the Old City until we emotionally reach our destination: The Kotel.
True appreciation for the loss of 6,000,000 Jews and the sheer extent of the hatred which enabled such a campaign of evil is something that literally cries out to be seen with one’s own eyes. In an era when Holocaust deniers are extended public platforms in order to give voice to their vitriol, and in a world where anti-Semites are increasingly afforded free reign to attack the Jewish People, the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education must be recognized as that much more vital, relevant and timely.
The distinct difference between these two commemorative marches only one week apart is obvious and uplifting: on Yom HaShoah in Poland we march to remember and honor the past, while on Yom HaAtzmaut in Jerusalem we march in celebration of our freedom, our heritage and our future.
As we proclaim our commitment to and love for the State of Israel, MOTL participants will do so with a keener understanding of the past, its meaning to the Jewish People today and the lessons of the Holocaust that are so important to understand and embrace as together we face the future.
Phyllis Greenberg Heideman is President of the March of the Living, Co-Founder of The Israel Forever Foundation, and a former George W. Bush Presidential Appointee to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.