Greetings from Jerusalem! We had another very full day and I am ready for some rest…but not before I update you on the happenings!
The Lord blessed us with rain today, and clouds moved in and out of the valley to the west of Mt Herzl, where Yad Vashem is located. (For my Phoenix friends, “rain” is that wet stuff that falls from the skies!) Our classroom has a wall of windows looking out over that valley, so it was a blessing to stand out on the balcony during breaks to take in a bit of the freshness.
Again today we received lectures from world-class experts in their specialties, such as “Jews in the Medieval Christian World” (helping us understand the root of Christian persecution of the Jews), “Modern Antisemitism, Nazism and the Shoah” (describing a bit about the Nazi mindset), and “Literary Responses to the Holocaust” (giving us insight into the literature written during and after the holocaust, and what it tells us about the people and the events).
We also took a short walk over to the Children’s Memorial. This was my fifth trip through there and it doesn’t get any easier. To me, it is one of the most moving places in all Israel. It is a small exhibit, really, but with a huge impact. You walk down a walkway (symbolizing walking down into darkness) and you enter a small vestibule with pictures of a dozen or so Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust. Of the 6 million Jews killed, 1.5 million were children. Then, you head into a dark room with a single candle lit. But that candle shines off of many mirrors, making it appear as millions of points of light…each representing a Jewish child lost in the greatest tragedy of all time. Meanwhile, names, ages and home countries of these children are read one after another. On and on and on and on…
It is simple. You are in and out of the exhibit in a matter of only a few minutes, but you are moved, often to tears, as you experience a depth of grief for all the innocent lives taken. It is a place that, once you’ve seen it, you never forget. (The Children’s Memorial was built with the generous donation of Abe and Edita Spiegel, whose son Uziel was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of two and a half.)
One of the requirements in the training of IDF soldiers is to spend a considerable amount of time in study at Yad Vashem about the Holocaust. The Israeli government purposefully trains its soldiers why they fight for their country. They have great loyalty, and Holocaust education is a foundation.
The highlight of the day was hearing a Holocaust survivor’s story. Hannah Pick was a neighbor and playmate of Anne Frank, whose Diary of Anne Frank is one of the best-known literary works of the Holocaust. Hannah is a delightful 87-year-old survivor, and we listened intently as she told her story of being unaware of what was going on in Nazi Germany, and how they did not understand why their Jewish friends kept turning up missing. She was even told that Anne Frank and her family had moved to Switzerland, only to re-connect later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Hannah made it out…Anne didn’t.
We concluded the day with a tour through the Israel Museum, highlighted by the model city of Jerusalem, and the Shrine of the Book (which houses replica copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls).
To learn of antisemitism and the Holocaust from Jewish people who have first-hand experiences, as well as a depth of knowledge, is beyond description. The Israeli people are brilliant, and to hear them talk about something so exclusive to the Jews is definitely a privilege and an honor. This seminar is not simply about learning, but about experiencing the passion Jewish people have for life itself! How refreshing!
Shalom from Jerusalem!