March of the Living is about learning to care

His March of the Living experiences taught him to care and to not tolerate injustice, says Brody Appotive.

His March of the Living experiences taught him to care and to not tolerate injustice, says Brody Appotive.

Brody Appotive (right) and Harrison Freeman at the Kotel in Jerusalem during the 2008 March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel.

Brody Appotive (right) and Harrison Freeman at the Kotel in Jerusalem during the 2008 March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel.

By Brody Appotive
For March of the Living

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty at the National War Memorial, on October 22, 2014.

Sitting in my public law classroom at Queen’s University, I froze. I was speechless. Shock turned into confusion, sadness and anger. This was in Ottawa. This was Canada.

I have worked as an Ottawa tour guide in the summer. With our buses departing directly across the street from the Memorial, I had talked to the soldiers there on countless occasions. My family was locked down for hours, downtown. My friend, working on Parliament Hill, was stuck in Centre Block. All I could think about for the next few days was what was going on, and how my friends and family were. This was real to me. This struck a chord. This hit home. This was my home.

And why do I bring this up?

Because, in reality, this is what the March of the Living is all about: learning to care.

After the March of the Living in 2008, we were left with a mission: to not be bystanders; to not sit idly by; and to not tolerate injustice. And, in a sense, we have failed. Tragedies in Syria, Sudan, Newtown, Ukraine, Ferguson, the Ebola crisis: we, or certainly I, have become immune to these stories. Each is just another headline in the morning news. If it doesn’t affect us, we don’t care. Our lives aren’t abruptly put in jeopardy, so why bother?

But, on that fateful October 22 morning, I did care. I was no longer immune to it.

And, while some of you may say the March of the Living is about preserving the Jewish identity and way of life, in my opinion, it’s really about learning to care.

And, so, the greater objective of the March truly becomes to merge these two ideas: to care, and to care about the preservation of Jewish life.

We need to make sure that, when teenagers see “Terrorist attack in Jerusalem kills five” on CNN, or that an innocent Jewish, Israeli soldier was stabbed in the back, they don’t just see it as another headline in their morning news, but they see it in the same way as I saw the attack in Ottawa. They need to care.

I’m not trying to say this is more important than that, or A is a more just cause than B, but we need to engrain that Jewish identity, that Jewish soul into their minds so they internalize it, and truly feel it. They need to care.

We need to make sure that, when tyrant leaders call for the annihilation of Israel off the face of the Earth, we do something about it – whether it means defending Israel in public or just by having a conversation with a friend. They need to care.

As the world watches in disbelief as the Middle East crisis unfolds, they need to be reminded not only that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, but why it needs to be the homeland of the Jewish people. They need to care.

At the end of the day, there is no greater token of respect to the Holocaust survivors than a March of the Living participant leaving Israel with a little bit more care in his body for the country and its people than the amount with which he entered.

As David Shentow, the Holocaust survivor on my Match of the Living trip in 2008, said at Auschwitz on the steps of Block #4, “You are all now my witness. This is your responsibility. This is your time to act.”

Brody Appotive participated in the March of the Living in 2008.

The next March of the Living for students in Grades 10-12 will take place in May. To register, visit www.marchoftheliving.org or contact Benita Siemiatycki at 613-798-4644 or bsiemiatycki@jewishottawa.com for more information.

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