Dr. Einat Wilf, an academic and Israeli politician, explains the origin of Israel in the late 19th and 20th centuries to a group of Christian seminary presidents and deans in Tel Aviv. Wilf describes Israel as an idea about how a people can craft their own future, rather than live passively before it. A “devout atheist”, she believes it was necessary for the founders of Israel to throw off the idea of a “God of history” because it kept the Jewish people living passively through history as it occurred to them. The death camps of the Nazis convinced the founders of Israel that the Jewish people needed to make their own history with the creative energy of their own entrepreneurial spirit. She sees Israel as a place that is willing to fight and argue about this central idea about making history rather than just accepting what comes, and the nation is still trying to figure out how to make sure everyone has a place at that debate.
Our period of time likes to glorify the individual, but some of the most important things humans do are hidden from if the view of all but those most touched by the action.
August 5th was the anniversary of the death of Boris Korczak, a dedicated Polish pediatrician who directed the largest orphanage in Poland. Though he never married and had no biological children, he had a remarkable sensibility of the developmental needs of children. He created a living environment for them that gave them the maximum freedom for exploration and self-direction. In August of 1942, Nazi leaders visited him at the orphanage and told him they were going to remove the children to a camp, but he could just walk away and save his life due to his contribution to the community. “We are one family,” he responded. The Gestapo came for all of them and took them to the Treblinka concentration camp and killed them.
In this piece of art at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, his head is at the same level of the children, emphasizing his treatment of children as equals, his arm wrapped around them trying to protect them.