JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s president appealed for national unity as the country marked the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday after months of mass protests that have roiled the nation.
Yom Hashoah, the day Israel observes as a memorial for the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its allies in the Holocaust, is one of the most solemn dates on the country’s calendar.
Official observances began after sundown on Monday with a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Six survivors, including one of the few remaining survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, lit torches for the memory of the 6 million killed in the Holocaust.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Isaac Herzog called on participants in the more than three months of weekly protests against the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary to lay their differences aside during the coming week of national mourning.
“Let us leave these sacred days, which begin tonight and end on Independence Day, above all dispute,” he said. “Let us all come together, as always, in partnership, in grief, in remembrance.”
Israel marks the 75th anniversary of its independence next week, a day after the country’s Memorial Day.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have participated in weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government’s plan to pass contentious changes to curb the Supreme Court’s authority and give politicians greater control over judicial appointments.
Opponents say the constellation of bills would destroy a system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies in parliament.
Herzog, Israel’s figurehead president, has brokered dialogue between Netanyahu’s allies and opposition lawmakers in a bid to try to reach a compromise.
“Even in the grips of ferocious disagreements about fate, about destiny, about faith, about values, we must be careful to avoid any comparisons, any equivalences — not with the Holocaust, and not with the Nazis,” Herzog said.