Holocaust Remembrance Day is not a day for telling jokes, but since in my family we all have a good sense of humor, I think my relatives who were murdered by the Nazis would smile too if they could hear this story.
It happened on a warm spring morning in the early seventies. My parents, my brother and I left for work and school. Andy, like every day in the last week or so, was still sleeping on the living room couch in our tiny apartment in central Tel Aviv. Andy was a young American visiting Israel for the first time. I don’t know how he ended up sleeping on our couch, but it was typical for my parents to invite someone they never met before to stay with us just because he did not know anyone in town.
Andy was woken up by a loud sound of a siren. His first thought was: I am in Israel, I hear a siren – war!. We lived on the ground floor and it rook Andy just seconds to run out to the street, wearing nothing but his underwear. During the short time it took him to run from bed to the street he thought – I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I should look and see which direction people are running and follow them. But there was no one to follow. Everyone was standing still, looking down at a spot on the ground between their big toes. Cars were stopped, doors open, drivers and passengers standing on the road looking down. Andy was running along the street looking for someone to follow. But everyone was standing, staring down. After what seemed like forever to Andy, the siren stopped. People started walking. Drivers got back into their cars, closed the doors and drove away. The sound of rush hour in the city replaced the siren. People looked at Andy standing there wearing nothing on but his underwear. The best thing to do was to go back into the apartment.
Only hours later, when my mother returned home from work Andy got an explanation: It was Holocaust Day. In Israel, twice a year, on Holocaust Day and on Memorial Day, a siren sounds everywhere in the country for two minutes. Everyone stop what they are doing and stand still in remembrance of those who are not with us anymore. I don’t know how long Andy stayed in Israel after he left Tel Aviv, and if he stayed long enough to experience this again. But I’m sure that, just like me, every year on Holocaust Day he remembers that time when he stayed with strangers in Tel Aviv.