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Rabbi on Malieveld. Diary of the Chief Rabbi 3 August 2022

Jezidis herdenking

Jezidis Commemoration We are on the eve of Tisha Be'aw, the ninth of the Jewish month of Aw. The saddest day in the Jewish calendar. It commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that began the exile in which we still find ourselves. And so my presence on Malieveld today, six Aw, was well timed in terms of the date! My day was all about commemoration. Though not a commemoration that has anything to do with our Jewish history, as it was the commemoration of the 'Yezidi genocide in 2014'. And so herewith for you, faithful diary reader: my speech. And for me: a free diary day!


I regret that I have been invited to speak here, because the occasion that led to this commemoration, this gathering, is thoroughly sad and condemnable. The occasion should never have existed.

Innocents were brutally torn from their homes, taken away, murdered or sold and traded as slaves. The survivors are damaged for life, deeply traumatised, but at least they are physically free. They are free, but many thousands are still in cruel slavery and are victims of daily abuse, mistreatment and also of common trade, business.

Why is so little known about the 2014 genocide? Why is there hardly any media coverage of it? Why do we need to draw attention to it in the year 2022? Why will an average pupil of our Dutch civilised educational institutions not know who or what Yezidis are?

Is it because, quantitatively speaking, it is not that big a deal? They are not hundreds of thousands? Or is it a far cry, while topographically it is not even that far away?

Or maybe we look away because it does not affect us in our own pockets, gas prices did not increase and even petrol did not become a cent more expensive! When in the United States of America one black fellow human being was treated by the police in such a horrible way that the man suffocated (unacceptable!) the media did not stop paying attention. And here, a far-away people, who simply because they are who they are and who they want to continue to be, are persecuted in a beastly hardly touches us, it remains almost unknown.

For survivors, who all have relatives who did not survive, who all have relatives of whom it is still unknown how and where they are, for those survivors not a day goes by without care, sorrow, horror and hope. Our representatives in the Lower House have acknowledged the genocide, which is fine, but the survivors still have gaping wounds that are incurable.

And that is why I am standing here in The Hague on the Malieveld and why I am grateful for the invitation to speak here.

Jewish philosophy indicates that visiting the sick contributes to their healing. All of you, Yezidis, must be sick, badly damaged. If not physically, then certainly spiritually! For to have such a history and not be touched by it, to remain normal as if nothing had happened, is still happening and will happen again tomorrow, is impossible and not normal at all. Consider my presence as a sign of solidarity, a visit to the sick.

We Jews have known for centuries what persecution means, for the directly persecuted and for their descendants, the second generation. For sick parents - excuse my language - consciously, but mostly unconsciously, give their children a difficult upbringing.

Judaism does not convert. We believe in a multicultural society, a world where people are allowed to differ from each other. But we are all creatures of one and the same g'd, and we all have our own way of serving this common g'd. Mankind as a whole is comparable to a g'd in the world. Humanity as a whole is comparable to a unique individual. Each one has a brain, limbs, a heart, feet, legs. Each one also has his own specific task.

One of the tasks we have as the Jewish people is to contribute to the wider society, without trying to convert the other.

Our Jewish feast days, mourning days and days of remembrance are almost all internal affairs; we do not want to assimilate, we want to remain ourselves, like the Yezidis. Almost all of them internal, because during the Chanukah festival, eight days long, throughout the centuries, even under the most miserable and harsh conditions, the Menorah, the eight-armed candelabra, is lit in front of the window, outside the door or on public property, visible to every passer-by, when it is dark outside. To bring light into the surrounding spiritual darkness.

Prof. Presser, the historian, writes in his famous history book 'Ondergang' (Downfall) about the Second World War in the Netherlands: only 5% of the Dutch population collaborated with the enemy, only 5% offered active resistance against the Nazis and 90% saw it happen and let it happen! Unfortunately, this is how it is all too often in the world. Ninety per cent look on and let it happen and only wake up when there is a personal loss.

What happened to the Yazidis does not affect any of us Dutchmen, and so the tendency to look away flourishes.

And to express my disgust against that looking away, I stand here. Because when there is a wound to one of the human organs or limbs, the whole body suffers.

Responsibility for each other, tolerance, mutual respect, wanting to see the other and especially not looking away.

And if a single person, when called upon, suddenly indicates that he is too small to make a difference in that big corrupt dark world: look at the Menorah, the eight-armed candelabrum that is lit when it is intensely dark outside, and be aware that a very small pure flame can dispel a gigantic amount of darkness.

I try to be that small flame in my presence here today at this commemoration of the genocide in 2014 and, above all, not look away.

During the corona period and afterwards, Chief Rabbi Jacobs kept a diary for the Jewish Cultural Quarterly. NIW publishes these special pieces on