Israel celebrates Holocaust Remebrance Day, warns of Iran danger

Israel Materials 2 May 2011 02:32 (UTC +04:00)

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel officially started in a ceremony Sunday night in Jerusalem as Israeli officials warned of "new threats" against the Jewish people from Iran, dpa reported.

"Today, new enemies are rising, and they deny the Holocaust ... call for the destruction of our people," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony held in the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem.

"Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas are openly working to destroy the Jewish state," Netanyahu said.

Israeli president Shimon Peres called the Iranian leadership "a danger to the whole world, not only to Israel."

"It is a danger to everyone, a real danger to the fate of mankind," Peres said.

"The nations of the world have announced that they will not abide nuclear weapons in the possession of Iran. Their words will now be tested," Peres said.

He was referring to Iran's nuclear power programme, regarded with concern around the world over the basis it could lay for weapons. Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

"There is no substitute for a homeland of our own," Peres said.

The strong role played by Israel Defence Forces was "the answer to an enemy, every enemy," he said.

Holocaust survivors lit six torches and held a traditional memorial service at the opening ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, which will end Monday after sunset.

On Monday, a two-minute siren is scheduled to wail throughout the country and Israel will come to a standstill, with cars stopping in the streets and pedestrians pausing in honour of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in World War II.

In the early years after Israel's foundation in 1948, Holocaust survivors made up about half the country's Jewish population, but they have dwindled to under 4 per cent. Nearly 13,000 die each year, said the Holocaust survivors' foundation.

That means that in some 16 years, Israel will have lost most of its survivors to tell the story first hand of the Holocaust.