The largest ever delegation of Israeli lawmakers to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration, occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday January 27th, 2014.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, and Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz joined 60 Knesset members, over 100 Holocaust survivors (31 from Israel) and their families, as well as 250 prominent public figures including State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, all travelled for one day to Poland to mark this years anniversary and take part in the commemorations.
The group was led by the head of the opposition Isaac Herzog (Labor), and coalition head Yariv Levin (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu). Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was unfortunately able to head the group as originally planned, due to the unfortunate death of his wife two days prior to the event. 'Seven decades after millions of our people were cruelly murdered by the Nazi machine of destruction, it is my privilege to head the largest ever delegation of the Knesset, the parliament of the independent Jewish state, to the killing valley of Auschwitz-Birkenau,' Levin said.
The Israeli delegation departed on two planes from Ben-Gurion (Tel-Aviv), and landed at the military airport in Krakow before heading to the concentration camp for a private guided tour of prisoner blocks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. After this tour, the delegation marched into Birkenau for a special memorial service, held on behalf of the Polish government, which included a moving speech from Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger.
'We are travelling from Jerusalem to the Valley of Tears; to the site of the greatest disaster and pain of our time,' Herzog said in a statement ahead of the visit. 'There are no words to describe the intensity of our feelings as those who represent the atmosphere and opinions in our democracy. We are travelling to Poland in order to remember, remind, learn and teach a lesson; to light a memorial candle and say a small prayer - the Yizkor prayer.'
The Israeli delegation was joined by around 1000 people for the ceremony. Following on from the ceremony, the Knesset members held an inter-parliamentary gathering with officials from Poland, US and around the world in Krakow, before moving to a formal dinner which notably included a special performance from Maestro Andrea Bocelli, as he was accompanied by the Krakow Philarmonic Orchestra.
The Knesset's visit to Poland, came a day after the release of a government report that found an overall deterioration in the security of Jews around the world and increasing concerns over anti-Semitism