For more than ten years, Helping Hand Coalition has worked with March of Life, a non-profit organization based in Germany, to spread awareness of anti-Semitism and also bring aid to Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
“The March of Life is an initiative by Jobst and Charlotte Bittner and TOS Ministries from Tübingen, Germany. Together with descendants of German Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the SS and police force, they have organized memorial and reconciliation marches at sites of the Holocaust all over Europe. Since the beginning of this movement in 2007, marches were held in 20 nations and in more than 350 cities in cooperation with Christians from different churches and denominations, as well as from many Jewish communities. In 2011 and 2015, the March of Life was honored by the Israeli Knesset for its special efforts on behalf of Holocaust survivors. In 2017, the Jewish Community of Halle in Germany awarded the March of Life movement with the Emil L. Fackenheim Prize for Tolerance and Understanding.” ~ Marchoflife.org
Hosting events and bringing groups from March of Life to Israel multiple times a year, HHC was thrilled to participate in this year’s March of the Nations which took place on June 20th in three different cities in Israel: Tiberias, Kfar Saba, and Sderot. Sponsoring buses for transportation so groups of Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans could join in with the marches, HHC walked with March of Life to support the work they’re doing to bring remembrance, reconciliation, and aid to Holocaust survivors around the world as well as to stand against modern antisemitism which is becoming more and more prevalent.
After the success of 2018’s March of the Nations in Jerusalem, the municipalities in Israel came together to organize three marches that brought hundreds of people together from across the world and Israel. Representing their countries, people from Germany, Poland, USA, Columbia, Dominican Republic, and many others waved their flags for the people of Israel to see that they are being supported by those from all around the world. In Sderot, Luke & Sarah Gasiorowski, Executive Director of Helping Hand Coalition, were present for the march. Amongst a crowd of three hundred people, the mayor of Sderot and former Knesset members walked in agreement with a movement that causes the ground to shake wherever it goes!
“On 15 May 2018, 6000 participants marched through Jerusalem at the March of the Nations.
Jews and Christians walking hand in hand proclaiming: “Israel, you are not alone! We stand together with you in friendship!” In June 2019, this message will be carried throughout Israel at the March of the Nations compact. Christians from all nations will come together for a conference in a special place in Jerusalem with a view of the Jaffa Gate and the David Citadel. On the third day, they will go to different cities in the north, south, and center of Israel for joint public marches. The March of the Nations compact includes personal encounters with Holocaust survivors and representatives of Israeli society.” ~ Marchoflife.org
Bringing more than awareness of the Holocaust to the public, those in Sderot also marched to show the residents that they had not been forgotten. Located a few hundred meters away from the Gaza border, Sderot is a clear target that frequently goes under fire. Due to this reality, Sderot rarely has people come to help fix the destruction since it’s more than likely to happen again.
With less than a few seconds to get to safety, life in Sderot is always on high alert. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for most of the elderly and Holocaust survivors living in the city to make it to the bomb shelters in time as many of them are ill, or suffering from arthritis or simply too elderly to get out of bed to find shelter. March of Life’s presence in Sderot was a massive shout to show the world what people are going through on almost a daily basis, and hopefully bring a change to their community.
Before the march began, March of Life’s youth dance group performed for everyone. Dancing to songs in both Yiddish and Hebrew, it was a beautiful moment to watch the young Germans embrace the Jewish culture. In a way, their performance was their own way of declaring that they would not follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Fun, energetic, and encouraging, there was no better way to commence the afternoon’s march!
Fearlessly, those who had gathered in Sderot marched through the city with their heads held high and their flags waving in the breeze, singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Soldiers who had fought with the Partisans, the Red Army and/or with the Allies against the Nazis were amongst the marchers, continuing to support the Jewish people and the recognition of the State of Israel.
The afternoon impacted many lives and will hopefully inspire others to join in with other events to show that their country stands with a nation that many wishes to be destroyed. The State of Israel has a history dating back thousands of years, yet our current world has only recently recognized its existence seventy-one years ago. With support and events like the March of the Nations and organizations like March of Life and Helping Hand Coalition, Israel will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. This is only the beginning for a nation that holds deep meaning to so many.