Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at the National Library of Lithuania. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO) Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at the National Library of Lithuania. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

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Netanyahu paid tribute to Lithuania’s vanished Jewish community, decimated by the Nazis and and their local collaborators, and reminded the world that the State of Israel gives the Jewish people an unprecedented ability to protect themselves.

By: Ezra Stone, United with Israel

During his recent visit to Lithuania, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not only met with the heads of state of four Baltic nations, he also visited important Jewish historical sites in Vilnius (Vilna), a city that was once known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

Over the weekend, Netanyahu attended a memorial for the Ponar massacre, during which Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators committed the mass murder of up to 100,000 people, including around 70,000 Jews. At the memorial, Netanyahu shared a personal story about his grandfather, who after being beaten within an inch of his life near Ponar vowed, before he lost consciousness, to move to the Land of Israel and make a home for the Jewish people there.

On Sunday, Netanyhau commented during an address at Vilnius’ only remaining operational synagogue, “My wife Sara and I walked through the streets of the Jewish ghetto of Vilna. We saw the Jewish homes. Sara said she could see the faces of the little Jewish children from 75 years ago. We saw the Jewish theatre.”

Netanyhau continued, “We could hear the music of the violins. We saw the ruins of some of the 100 Jewish synagogues. We saw the barricade where Yechiel Scheinbaum and his brave colleagues fought to the deaths the Nazi oppressors. We saw Jewish resistance in the heart of the ghetto.”

Times Have Changed for the Jewish People

While Netanyahu paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Lithuanian Jews who perished in the Holocaust, he also stressed that times have changed for the Jewish people, who now have a nation of their own and an army with which to protect themselves.

“What a distance we have traveled in 75 years from the death pits of Ponar to a rising power in the world. What a distance we have traveled,” noted Netanyahu.

He continued, “I come to Vilna, I return to Vilna as the head of a proud, strong, advanced Jewish state. For the Jewish people, what has changed in these 75 years? Not the attempts to destroy us. They’re still [trying] to destroy us. Iran says so openly. Hamas says so openly and others. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves.

“We are no longer defenseless. We are no longer helpless. We are a power that controls our own destiny with the State of Israel and the army of Israel. This is a magnificent change of history. This is what the Jewish state means – the ability of Jews to defend themselves,” he underscored.

Netanyahu concluded his address at the Choral synagogue by noting, “With this newfound capacity of self-defense, we’ve built an extraordinary state in such a short time. We have science, we have technology, we have culture, we have rabbinical studies, we have faith and we have progress, we have an example – much maligned in the world but nevertheless shining as a beacon – of what a free people can do once they are given the opportunity to control their destiny.”

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