This piece is one of an ongo­ing series that we will be shar­ing in the com­ing days from Israeli authors and authors in Israel.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, JBI is record­ing writ­ers’ first-hand accounts, as shared with and pub­lished by JBC, to increase the acces­si­bil­i­ty of these accounts for indi­vid­u­als who are blind, have low vision or are print disabled. 

Two major epipha­nies have forced their way into my life last week, in the most unfor­tu­nate way. Still reel­ing from the heinous attacks com­mit­ted by Hamas on Octo­ber 7 – the day with the largest num­ber of Jews mur­dered since the Holo­caust – I look back to my child­hood with an unfor­tu­nate new­found under­stand­ing of the motives behind my parent’s actions.

I am Sec­ond Gen­er­a­tion, in terms of being Israeli and in regards to the Holo­caust. The term Sec­ond Gen­er­a­tion is well embed­ded in the his­tor­i­cal research of the after­math of the Holo­caust; it describes the uncon­scious impart­ing of knowl­edge that chil­dren of Holo­caust sur­vivors have been sub­ject­ed to through­out their lives. How­ev­er, I pre­fer to think of myself as a daugh­ter of sur­vivors and a grand­daugh­ter of the per­ished. This, in my opin­ion, is much more inclu­sive. It says it all in a mere nine words.

The long shad­ow of the Holo­caust has come to define my life. Like many Holo­caust sur­vivors, my par­ents made every con­scious effort to refrain from bur­den­ing me with their expe­ri­ences to me in the course of their life. They want­ed me to be a proud and free Israeli which-luck­i­ly‑I cer­tain­ly am. Los­ing both of them when I was in my for­ties left me deeply igno­rant; I was plagued by the ques­tion of how lit­tle I knew about my roots. I start­ed research­ing their where­abouts soon after their pass­ing. As I was in the mid­dle of gath­er­ing vital infor­ma­tion from rel­a­tives and fam­i­ly mem­bers, I could­n’t get over the one sen­tence that kept on crop­ping up in all the con­ver­sa­tions: I don’t know.” 

What do you mean you don’t know?” I would ask my moth­er’s niece, her­self an Auschwitz sur­vivor, when she failed to fur­nish me with basic facts about my mom. We didn’t talk about these things,” she replied. You are both sur­vivors of death camps,” –(My mom sur­vived Ravens­bruck) — How could you have not?” I admit that my curios­i­ty was harsh. We were not in the habit of dis­cussing what we went through,” was her reply. 

I did­n’t think she was evad­ing me at the time, though I did find it odd that close rel­a­tives did­n’t use the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sup­port each oth­er by shar­ing their expe­ri­ences. The atroc­i­ties per­formed against my peo­ple just this week brought forth a fierce epiphany to my life: the Holo­caust sur­vivors did not share their expe­ri­ences because they were tak­ing pity on the oth­er per­son­’s soul. They refused to sub­ject the oth­er per­son to the true degree of their hor­ror, just as I am present­ly doing to my friends and mem­bers of my fam­i­ly: We do not go there. My heart, for one, is too weak. I am fear­ing a total col­lapse, either mine or theirs, so bet­ter to keep still. 

My sec­ond epiphany will be men­tioned briefly as it needs safe­keep­ing for pur­pos­es of future writ­ing. I will only con­cede that I was a child who was bru­tal­ly guard­ed against real or imag­i­nary wrong doers; over the TV just this week, how­ev­er, while watch­ing a tear­ful father con­fess that he would rather have his eigh­teen-year-old daugh­ter dead than cap­tured by Hamas ter­ror­ists, some of the harsh­ness of my par­ents’ watch­ful grip over my sex­u­al­i­ty start­ed mak­ing sense.

The hor­rors of cap­tiv­i­ty are beyond those which we can imag­ine. We try to guard our­selves and our chil­dren from these real­i­ties, but to no avail. All we can do now is try to min­i­mize the impact before it is too late. Do every­thing you can to free our fam­i­lies. Today they are our beloved ones, tomor­row they could be yours. Do not let the cap­tives lan­guish in the dun­geons of Gaza for years, do not stay silent like the world was dur­ing the Holo­caust. If you are at all human, demand the cap­tives be freed at once. 

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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A teacher, tele­vi­sion host, news­cast­er and writer, Edna Noy was born in Jaf­fa in 1950, the only child of Holo­caust sur­vivors. Her first nov­el, All Those Who She Loved, was pub­lished in 2008 and was trans­lat­ed into French by the acclaimed Fayard pub­lish­ing house. Her sec­ond nov­el, The Cher­ished Daugh­ter, was pub­lished in Octo­ber 2022 and has received many acco­lades. Edna is present­ly active in the protest move­ment against the judi­cial reform in Israel. She is a moth­er of three and grand­moth­er of nine.