There are not many left to tell the tale, but I had the privilege of sitting next to a Holocaust survivor on a plane who told me how she had been rescued as a baby by nuns, and eventually reunited with her mother after the war. Her family was from the same town in Holland as Corrie Ten Boom, and the family knew the Ten Boom family well. She explained to me that Casper the watch-maker and his Christian family had helped to hide Jews from the Nazis.
My flight companion lost almost all of her family during the Holocaust except for her mother, who, she told me, just cried and cried, day after day. “She never had a single happy moment after that”, she reflected.
This incredible woman seemed of a more cheerful disposition (because of God, she told me) but she also said gravely that the New Testament was a very anti-Semitic book.
The damage done in the Holocaust affected not only those who perished in it, nor did it stop with the lives shattered beyond repair by memories unbearable to the human soul, but also greatly damaged Jewish attitudes toward Christianity and God himself, even to this day.
The blows were deadly, far-reaching, and beyond comprehension.
Lord, can these dry bones live?
On leaving the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, one drives under a large archway which reads,
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
It is a quotation from Ezekiel 37, the Valley of Dry Bones. The prophet Ezekiel had experienced the bewildering vision of utter devastation – skeletons scattered throughout the valley floor, but God first brings them back to life physically, then breathes his breath into them and makes them live. God explains to his prophet,
“These bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.”
But like the lifeless bodies in Ezekiel 37 that had been recreated but had no breath in them, Israel may have been resurrected as a nation, but still needs the breath of God to come back to life spiritually. However, this breath has been blowing throughout Israel and the Jewish people for the last few decades more and more noticeably. Staunch atheism has been making way for new softness of heart towards God and even towards Yeshua.
Pinchas Lapide, an Orthodox Jewish scholar, stated that there is also a “Jesus wave passing through Judaism” with hundreds of books, poems, plays and so on written about Jesus of Nazareth.1
Yeshua, the suffering servant, meets Israel, the suffering nation
In the desert town of Arad, an artist named Rick Wienecke has created a gigantic sculpture called Fountain of Tears. The piece portrays seven panels in which seven life-size, bronze figures of Holocaust victims interact with the crucified Yeshua, expressing anger, empathy, and despair among other responses.2 The artist describes his work as “A Dialogue of Suffering Between the Holocaust and the Crucifixion” symbolizing the response and reflection of the Holocaust… Six pillars of stone for a memorial to the six million perished. It gives room to reflect upon both the suffering of Yeshua and his people, the Jews. The sculpture is based on this verse in Jeremiah 9:1:
“Oh Lord that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears that I would weep day and night for the lost of my people.”
We remember with tears the devastation of the Holocaust and all its horrific effects that linger to this day. We also remember the liberation that finally came and put the broken people of Israel on the road to restoration. The bones have been regathered and put back on their feet, the sinews and flesh have been re-growing on the bare skeleton of a new nation, and today we are starting to feel the breath of God’s spirit breathing new life back into a people who thought that their God had deserted them.
“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means!” (Romans 11:1)
For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:13-16)
We will remember them.
1. Pinchas Lapide, “The Resurrection of Jesus; A Jewish Perspective” (Wipf and Stock 2002) p.7