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My Grandfather’s Journey From the Holocaust to Israel, and My Promise to Him

People with Israeli flags attend the International March of the Living at the former Auschwitz Nazi German death camp, in Brzezinka near Oswiecim, Poland, May 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki

I’m a third-generation child of Holocaust survivors. Almost all of my family from my father’s side was gassed to death in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Nearly 20 years ago, I visited the death camps where my family perished. There, at the gas chambers in Auschwitz, I recited their names out loud to ‘elevate their souls’ (L’iluy Neshama). As we believe in Judaism, the soul never dies, and we can help elevate a soul to a higher place in its journey to the afterlife, with good deeds, prayers, and remembrance.

As I called out my family members’ names in the devil’s “death factory,” it suddenly hit me hard that right where I was standing, millions of Jews, my family included, had been reduced to only a number tattooed on their cold flesh, as well as God’s arm. They were stripped of their identity and former selves and transformed into a combination of “digits” — living “codes” to humanity’s locked heart. There I was, saying their names. Who they really were. What they were before true evil took them away

My grandparents survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel. As a child, I used to sleep over at my grandparents’ little house on their farm. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to my beloved grandfather screaming in Hungarian; he was haunted by the nightmare of his 4-year-old sister burning alive and turning into black ashes. To his very last day, he couldn’t sleep without night terrors of what had happened to his family at the hands of the Nazis and their many helpers. I remember myself just standing there. A little girl, frozen at the entrance of his room, looking at him and crying silently as my grandfather shouted, sweated, and writhed from real horror dreams. Flashbacks of the Holocaust, which he survived but never escaped.

Tzlil, age 4, with her grandfather Nachman Berko circa 1993.

The Holocaust runs in my blood. It’s a significant part of the very essence of who I am. It’s intertwined with my soul, at the very core of my being.

I promised my grandfather that we will defend what he and all of our beloved Holocaust survivors fought for. We will never give up, and we will never let go. We are proud Jews with a strong moral army and we will keep my promise to him. Am Yisrael Chai (the nation of Israel lives).

I wrote the poem below (translated from Hebrew) for my brave grandfather, Nachman Berko, may his memory be a blessing, and to my extended family that left our world through a chimney as the blue sky turned black.

That Is What I Am
By Tzlil Berko

I am childhood lost
I am wrenched away
I am rupture
I am a flower black as coal from the inferno

I am a nameless number
I am years without time
I am rattling bones sent to be inventoried

I am the dawn that never rises
Indeed, that is what I am
I am beyond my end

I am the blackness of night
I am the utter collapse of the naked sky
I am a bottomless pit from which there is no return

I am an empty shell
I am silence
I am also a wail
I am the dust of the earth
I am the ashes of cremation

I am the dawn that never rises
Indeed, that is what I am
I am beyond my end

That is what I am
Me, not you
That is I who looks to the sky through a chimney
That is I whose four year old sister screams to him
To save her from the flames
That is I who lives in a nightmare even after waking

That is what I am
Me, not you
A man who’s no longer a man
He is a ghost
Just a mere reflection
Stripped of flesh and form
An alien shadow that does not know
Its very own self in the mirror

That is what I am
An empty shell
The fragile wrapper of a tattooed broken soul

And you?
You are the man I once was
A man from before
Before the Holocaust.


Tzlil Berko is an experienced security consultant and entrepreneur. She is also an avid writer of poetry, song lyrics, short stories, scripts, and more. Tzlil has played a major role in conceiving and writing with her parents, Dr. Anat and Dr. Reuven Berko, a TV psychological thriller and a family melodrama that draws on Dr. Anat Berko’s books and the family’s remarkable personal story. Follow Tzlil on LinkedIn.

A version of this article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction

Toronto Police have arrested and charged a man for assault over an incident May 9 near the protest encampment at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle on its downtown campus.  Toronto Police Services (TPS) say they responded at 3:45 p.m. that day to a call for assault in the area of the road around […]

The post Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Any Chance the Media Would Cover This?’ New Video Shows Terrorists in Gaza Using Humanitarian Aid to Help Prepare Rockets

Terrorists in Gaza using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets. Photo: Screenshot

Terrorists in Gaza have been using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets they were preparing to shoot at Israelis, new video circulating on social media reveals, underscoring the challenges of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in the Hamas-ruled enclave without it being stolen.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which is the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasused bags from Turkey and UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for the Palestinians — to prop up the rockets, according to the video.

At least three of the bags say they contain “wheat flour,” and the bag from Turkey specifically says it is supposed to go “to the Palestinian people.” It is unclear whether the bags had previously been opened to extract the food and then refilled with sand, for example, or if it still contained the food that was intended to feed Palestinian civilians.

“Any chance the media would cover this, yet another violation of international humanitarian law?” pro-Israel commentator Hen Mazzig wrote on X/Twitter while sharing the video.

Rafah, Gaza: Hamas is using UN humanitarian aid bags as rocket launchers today.

Any chance the media would cover this, yet another, violation of International Humanitarian Law?

— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) May 29, 2024

Almost every day for the past seven months, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations have been shooting rockets into Israel from civilian areas, which is a war crime. Tens of thousands of Israelis are internally displaced and unable to return to their homes as a result.

There is mounting evidence that Hamas has also operated in civilian clothing and in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. However, these violations of international law are rarely noted by much of the media.

The latest video of terrorists using humanitarian aid for military purposes underscores the issue of making sure such aid gets to Palestinian civilians. 

The US built a pier to deliver 2,000,000 meals daily to Palestinian civilians, but after a few weeks of operation, the Pentagon said none of the aid unloaded from the pier had made it to those who needed it. On one occasion, about 70 percent of the aid has been stolen while en route to a UN warehouse. In other cases, it just never showed up.

Israeli estimates suggest approximately 60 percent of the aid that has gone into Gaza has been stolen — either by Hamas or other groups and individuals. Oftentimes, that aid is then sold to the population at high prices, making it difficult to impossible for most Gazans to gain access to it. 

According to Ehud Yaari, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hamas has made more than $500 million in profit from selling humanitarian aid since Oct. 7.

The terror group began the war last October by massacring 1,200 people in Israel and taking more than 250 people hostage, about half of whom have still not been released.

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Columbia University Anti-Zionist Group Endorses Hamas

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has endorsed Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace antisemitic violence.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

.@Columbia and @BarnardCollege, @ColumbiaSJP is actively promoting terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their social media channels. They are sounding more and more like Hamas spokespeople every day. When is the university going to permanently ban this “student group”?

— Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus (@CampusJewHate) May 26, 2024

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has reformed under multiple organizations since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, has been central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The group’s behavior after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Center for League Justice (SCLJ).

The complaint alleges that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, the pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library, according to the lawsuit. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, pleas for help allegedly went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while SJP held its demonstrations. The school’s apparent powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

The explosion of end-of-year protests held by the group forced Columbia officials to shutter the campus in April and institute virtual learning. Later, the group occupied Hamilton Hall, forcing President Minouche Shafik to call on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for help, a decision she hesitated to make. According to The Columbia Spectator, over 108 arrests were made.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Amid the chaos, a prominent rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus for the sake of their safety. Ultimately, the university cancelled its main commencement ceremony.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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