For those of us who caught the advance teaser about President Obama’s late-night speech to the country and the world, it was a long time from the initial announcement of his message until he finally stepped to the podium in the East Room of the White House well past 11 pm last night. As I flipped between news channels, it was interesting to note how each network was handling the responsibility of providing news versus speculation about the content of the President’s speech initially, at the point when it was still clear that nobody really knew anything concrete. By the time President Obama stepped forward to deliver his remarks, of course, the core of his message was no longer a secret.
As one commentator after another noted, this was one of those moments in history where each of us will long remember where we were and what we were doing at the moment when the news hit. And of course, it is little surprise that today the airways are filled with little else beyond the reportage and analysis of the death of Osama bin Laden. The debate over the significance of Bin Laden’s death, and the circumstances of his death has already begun. The talking heads are doing what they do. I, for one, hope we all heed the President’s call to return to some sense of community and common . As the President stated: “Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”
As I reflect on last night’s news, I cannot help but be very cognizant of the fact that this news came on Yom HaShoah – the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust. This day, the 27th of Nisan, was set aside soon after the establishment of the State of Israel as a day to remember the horrors inflicted on over 6 million of our Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as countless others, by those who followed the evil machinations of another fanatic, Adolf Hitler. Yet the poignancy of this convergence does not stop there. It is heightened by an obituary I read in this morning’s edition of the Boston Globe and which I then followed up on the website of Israel’s daily newspaper Ha’aretz. Not only did yesterday mark Osama bin Laden taking his last breaths; it also was the day when Justice Moshe Landau, the fifth president of Israel’s Supreme Court, who presided in the trial of Adolf Eichmann, died yesterday in Jerusalem at the age of 99.
What a striking contrast between the deaths of these two men — one who for years perpetrated acts of terror and evil upon the world; and the other who conducted a trial to bring another evil perpetrator of terror from another time, who was responsible for heinous crimes against humanity to face the call of justice. All of this on the eve of and in the early hours of Yom HaShoah.
Today we remember — we remember the capacity for human evil; and we remember the bravery, as well as the potential in those lives which were so brutally and monstrously cut short. Last night, the President stated that, “. . . we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.” The same can be said on an even grander scale as we remember the 1.5 million Jewish children who lost their lives in that dark night we call the Shoah, along with the over 4.5 Jewish million adults, and the other victims of the Nazi killing machine.
Yom HaShoah is a day to pause and reflect, which is exactly how it is observed in Israel as air raid sirens sound throughout Israel and the country stands in silence as one to recall what has been lost. In our country, last night’s news has been greeted in many places with shouts of jubilation and celebratory gatherings. On this momentous day — and on this Yom HaShoah, with the news of the death of Osama bin Laden let us mark the death of Moshe Landau, a strident defender of freedom and justice who brought another madman to justice. Two men who chose very different paths for their lives, breathing their last on the same day. May the convergence of their deaths, and this Day of Remembrance truly give us pause, to reflect on what has been lost, and on what we must each do to ensure that as Jews, as American and as human beings we go forward to put an end to evil, terror and hatred of the other.