Welcome back friends…and thanks for stopping by! Many of you are following my journey to Israel, but I have to tell you that there is just absolutely no way I can relate all that I’m seeing, hearing, learning and experiencing! I’m here, not to tour, but to attend a Christian Leadership Seminar on “The Holocaust, Antisemitism, and Israel,” hosted by the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies and Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is not only the most authoritative and comprehensive holocaust museum imaginable, but is also a world-class research and educational center. (Check out the video in this post.)
Our instructors are world-renown in their particular specialties, and the facilities are equal to virtually any American university. Seminars are ongoing constantly for various groups such as educators, military, students, and Christian leaders.
Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield lectured on “God, Jews and History,” and led us (from a Jewish perspective) from the time of Abraham to the modern era. He shed much light on things such as the distinction of “Jews” ethnically and religiously, why that is such a messy issue, and the implications of it in modern times. I also gained deeper clarity on why, if Judaism is the root of Christianity, we don’t believe the same way about Yeshua. It was an incredibly fascinating way to begin the day!
That was followed by a lecture on the philosophy of the International School for Holocaust Studies. In short, we were shown how to (and not to) teach about the holocaust.
Most impacting, however, was our afternoon guided tour of the museum by Ephraim Kaye (Director of International Seminars for Educators). Ephraim has been at Yad Vashem since the ’80’s and worked with the design team that built the current museum (completed in 2005). Every single aspect of the museum was planned and has a specific purpose. For example, the exhibit hall is built so that there are no “shortcuts!” When you go to the museum, you MUST got all the way through because there is no other way out! The museum is also built in such a way that it begins and ends with “life!” The very first exhibit is a large video depicting normal life prior to the holocaust. It shows Jewish people doing what they do best…dancing, singing, and enjoying life.
The museum then slants slightly downhill as you enter one exhibit after another…taking you deeper and deeper into the darkness of the holocaust, and further and further away from the large video screen depicting joyful life. (One can look back and see that video playing, but normal life is obviously getting further and further away.)
The museum is chalk full of artifacts, testimony videos, and mockups of everything from a simple Jewish home to the death camps where millions of Jews were “exterminated.” There are extremely graphic displays and pictures, reminding all of the horrible atrocities that took place during the holocaust.
However, about the time one has “seen it all,” an interesting thing happens. The museum takes visitors on a journey through liberation as well, and within minutes you are experiencing light and life again! The Jews place the most incredible value on life of any people group on the planet! Within a very short time after the end of the holocaust, multitudes of Jews were marrying and starting families…the “ultimate revenge!” They returned to life!
To me, it is a picture of Christ who lived, who died, and who rose again! The story of the Jews goes from life, through death, to life. Even prior to the holocaust, while in captivity in Babylon, God said (through His prophet Isaiah):
Israel has been saved by the Lord
With an everlasting salvation;
You will not be put to shame or humiliated
To all eternity.
To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
Thus, Yad (“memorial”) Vashem (and “name”)! Now you know how Yad Vashem got its name!
One other fun tidbit before I close. Today we were told that Jews often have a “prickly” exterior (seemingly argumentative, brash, and straightforward), but internally they are very soft! A Jew will do virtually anything for you!
As we were gathering at the museum, I saw Yaniv Bar…a secular Jewish tour guide who guided a tour I was on in 2012. Yaniv is that “prickly” Jew, who I came to love on that previous tour. When I saw him, I ran up to him and said, “Yaniv! You likely don’t remember me, but you led a tour I was on a few years ago.” Immediately he replied, “Yes, I do remember you…you are the one who tried to sneak off to the top of the tel at Bet Shean rather than staying with the group!” He remembered my “rebel action” and was bold and upfront about reminding me of it!
We chatted only a moment, recalling what group I was with then, and what I was doing in Israel now. He quickly took out a business card, handed it to me, and said, “If you need ANYTHING while you are here in Israel, please call me! I mean ANYTHING!”
And you wonder why I love the Jewish people!?!
Shalom for now!