Inspirational Israeli Student Dies in Tragic Accident
by Christine Ngeo
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
Two years ago, the Holocaust/Genocide Project began as a vision that believed through education, we could weed out the roots of hatred and racism. Five students from Cold Spring Harbor and students from Israel began corresponding through e-mail.
It is through the HGP that I met Ely Abir. At the time, he was a student of the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem, and he became one of the more vocal students to work on the HP. He wrote to us about the Holocaust from an Israeli viewpoint. He told us of his grandmother's experience as a survivor of the Holocaust and of the celebration of Holocaust Remembrance Week in Israel. Because of the emotion and candidness he expressed in our correspondence, he taught me things about the Holocaust which I could not possibly learn from a textbook.
When he decided not to return to school for his last year, we lost touch with him, but I always thought I'd be able to track him down somehow and keep in touch. In the time that we had spent learning and writing to each other, we had become friends. He even got me hooked on Queen, which was his favorite singing group.
Ely Abir died in a car accident in November of 1993. When I first recently heard that Ely had died, it didn't come as a shock. I don't know why, but I was expecting it. I do know that his life affected me more than his death, and it is not because I don't feel sad. In many ways, his death still hasn't affected me. To me, he will always be alive in my mind. And I know that he will always be alive at the heart of the HP.
It is strange to know that someone I have never seen could have such a tremendous impact on my life. It is hard to express what he gave me in words. He taught me more than the Holocaust. He taught me how to stand up for a belief. And I will always remember him.
Below is a poem I wrote in May or June of 1992 for Ely. I would like to include it in the HP newsletter in his memory.
Stars and Friendships
By Christine Ngeo
It is morning here
when there, it is night.
countries, oceans, and time
we are bonded by our common goals.
Tonight, I will lift
my face to the sky
and let the stars touch
my soul. And on my
tomorrow or your
tonight, you can gaze
at the thousands of
the darkness and join
my heart with yours.
Someday, I hope to
meet you and absorb
the knowledge in your
eyes. But for now, I
am consoled by the
magic in the stars
because I know that
they shine as brightly
here as they do there.
Well, now it is too late for us to meet. I really wish I could have been able to look into your eyes and talk to you or just to see your picture. But at least I was able to look into your heart for just awhile.
Here are some excerpts of Eli's writing to us the first year of the Holocaust/Genocide Project:
31 March 1992 Dear friends, I read (I must admit quite briefly) the material you sent us. As an Israeli student, I'm quite aware of the Holocaust. I personally am very interested in this subject and read and learned about it. I have a strange feeling reading the things you've sent me because it reflects only one side of the Shoah while a lot is missing. I don't know the awareness of U.S. students of the Holocaust, but these works you've sent us do not reflect the Holocaust, especially as I see it. It is easily seen from the texts you've sent us that there was a bad attitude toward Jews in Germany during WW II but it wasn't bad attitude -- it was MURDER. I've been to Dachau. Some friends of mine are going this summer to Poland on what is called 'Journey of the Living' which repeats the journey of the dead which was the journey the Germans took the Jews from the ghettos to the death camps. They go to Treblinka and Auschwitz. The horror of the Holocaust is not reflected in the material you have. Do you know who is Dr. Mengele? Do you know what is the 'Final Solution'? Do you have any idea what it meant to be Jewish identical twins in the Holocaust? Have you ever seen any photographs of the experiments the Germans did on Jews? If you do, why doesn't it appear in your material? The Holocaust was not only a matter of prejudice; it was even more than hatred. When Germany began to lose in WW II and there were not enough trains for the German army, the trains that carried the Jews to their 'unpleasant' destiny were still running. Until the last moment, Jews were industrially killed. All this does not appear in your material. Why is there a fear of treating the Holocaust itself? Don't look for the reasons; first, look at the results and then look into the reasons. If you have any questions about the Holocaust or anything concerning it, don't hesitate! Sincerely, Ely Abir P.S. -- My grandmother is a survivor of the Shoah.
2 May 1992 Hello, Christine, friends in CSH, and all over the world. Two days ago, exactly at 11:00, a siren was sounded all over Israel. This siren is sounded every Remembrance Day in Israel. All the Jews in Israel stand when the siren is sounded. Cars stop; everything stops. For one minute, the Jews in Israel are standing still. This is how we show our fellow Jews who died in Holocaust that we don't forget. All over the country ceremonies are being held, but I want to tell about one ceremony held at the same time but not in Israel but in Auschwitz, Poland. IASA is a boarding school which is in Jerusalem. I came from a little town in north of Israel called Nazareth-Illit. Some of my friends back in my town are now in Poland with a group of kids all over Israel who went there. When the siren was sounded in Israel, they sounded their siren in Auschwitz. They did a ceremony there! Before they left Nazareth, they performed the ceremony to their parents as a farewell. I attended that ceremony. Most of it like all ceremonies in Israel consisted of songs being sang and prose was read.... When I was little, I always was one of the performers in ceremony, and I always insisted to read this. On most ceremonies teenagers and adults light candles (real ones) for their relatives who died in Holocaust. Hearing the names makes you feel that it was 6,000,000 persons and not numbers killed in the Holocaust. So many names...it makes your heart scream with pain. In Yad Vashem, there is a hall called "The Kids Hall." When you walk inside you see hundreds of candles and pictures of who kids died in Holocaust. You also hear their names. I was in that hall for over an hour; I never heard the same name twice. Yours, Ely Abir IASA
5 April 1992 My grandmother is a survivor of the Holocaust. She and her family tried to escape the Nazis as they invaded into Russia. My grandmother's family lived in Moldavia, which was a soviet of the U.S.S.R and today an independent country (I myself was born in Moldavia) and they escaped, but after a while the Nazis got to them and they were sent to a concentration camp. My grandmother suffered a lot, and most of what I feel about the Shoah comes from her. Ely Abir
5 May 1993 Hello to friends in Cold Spring, I couldn't sleep this night so in about 4:00 AM in the morning I read all our mail exchange concerning the HGP. I find some differences between the first letters and the last ones. I think we achieved something. I got a letter from Christine which made me proud. If non-Jews feel this way about the Holocaust, than this world has hope, and it is not something I have against non-Jews. I would like to know what you all felt in the Remembrance Day. Do you feel different today than before the project? This doesn't mean for me the end of the project but a summary: The story of the Holocaust can never end, so we have to keep telling it. Ely Abir
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