Night to Honor Israel

Sometimes we experience something so moving we’ve got to tell others about it. Such was my experience this past Sunday night, so I wrote a letter to the editor, and they printed it …

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I want to thank the Panama City News Herald for covering Holocaust survivor Irving Roth’s recent speaking engagement at Naval Support Activity Panama City, and for mentioning he would also speak Sunday night during a Night to Honor Israel event. Pam and Larry Perry, Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Panama City directors, encouraged my husband and me to attend Sunday, and we brought some friends. So did many others. As First Assembly Panama City Pastor Phil Edwards opened the evening and thanked everyone for coming, he commented on the one-thousand-plus crowd. “How could that many people fit in this space?” I wondered. I turned to discover they had taken down the partition to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd. I wanted to document Bay County’s overwhelming response and support for Israel, so I walked to the back of the room and took photos of the packed assembly hall.

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Pastor Victor Styrsky, CUFI Eastern Regional Coordinator, performed a lively Hebrew praise song as everyone clapped in rhythm. Rabbi Samuel Waidenbaum of B’nai Israel Synagogue Pensacola thanked everyone for their support for Israel. I was stunned as a video showed soaring incidents of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses. Justin Pizzulli, CUFI on Campus Field Organizer, gave a recent first-hand account of a hateful, angry college demonstration against Jews and Israel. As a protester shouted in his face, he prayed. College students in attendance Sunday night were invited to apply for an all-inclusive scholarship to the annual CUFI Summit in Washington, D.C. in July.

When 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Irving Roth took the stage, I marveled at his passion and vigor as he told his horrific story of the rising anti-Semitism in Germany that transformed ordinary people, even dear friends, into despising the Jews. At age fourteen, German soldiers herded him into a cattle car with one hundred people—standing room only, with no bathroom, ventilation or windows—and imprisoned him at the Auschwitz death camp. Several of his family members were gassed and burned to ashes, including his older brother. At the end of World War II, he and 300 other boys, weighing an average of seventy-five pounds each, were rescued by American soldiers, whom Irving called his two Messiahs, one black and one white.

I shuddered to realize that soon there will be no more Holocaust survivors left to tell their story—to tell us that, yes, this planned extermination of the Jews did take place, and that circumstances leading to this tragedy are being mirrored today. Can it happen again? Irving Roth’s story was a startling wake-up call. It’s already happening. In the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

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