Jerusalem and the surrounding areas are filled with meaningful sites beyond the major sites related to Christianity. We visited some of them one day in Jerusalem.
We began that day with a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, highlighted by a guided tour through the main museum where we witnessed the stark reality of just how evil the atrocious schemes of Hitler and his cronies were. As they carried out a strategically-planned, well-documented plot to rid Europe of Jews, the world stood by and did nothing.
Unfortunately, we see identical patterns of antisemitism erupting all over Europe once again, and I wonder: have we forgotten?
One of the most difficult exhibits is the children’s memorial, a small, but beautifully designed building features a single candle burning in a dark room with hundreds of mirrors, making it look like millions of stars reaching infinitely into space. As visitors take the very short walk through the exhibit, the names and ages of each of the 1.5 million identified children murdered in the Holocaust are read non-stop. (See a video of the children’s memorial here.)
Additionally at Yad Vashem, there is a memorial to Polish physician and orphanage director, Janusz Korczak who refused to abandon the children, despite the offer of asylum. He committed himself to them, and gave his life doing so. (Find his story here, and a picture of the memorial of him and the children below.)
By the way, how did Yad Vashem get its name? It comes from Isaiah 56:5 in which God promises a memorial (Yad) and a name (Vashem). It is a name that is everlasting and will not be cut off. When God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, it was to be a forever name, never to be cut off. Despite the evil efforts to cut them off as a nation, Israel retains their name and will not be forgotten. Interestingly, one of the key components in Holocaust education is not to focus on 6 million deaths, but to remember every single victim had a face and a name, and should be remembered as individuals.
Jerusalem is also home to the Israel Museum with many fascinating exhibits and halls of artifacts. Part of the museum is the Shrine of the Book, in which a life-like replica of the Isaiah scroll (found in the caves of Qumran) is on display.
A model city of Jerusalem is also on display at the Israel Museum, and is very helpful in getting a picture of what Jerusalem looked like in Jesus’ day.
In a first for me, we went into Bethlehem to visit a shepherd’s cave. It is now firmly believed the “inn” where Mary and Joseph found refuge and Mary gave birth was probably a cave. Though no one knows the specific cave in which Jesus was born, we visited a shepherd’s cave very common to the area, and likely very similar to the one in which Jesus was born. To be there and contemplate the context and setting of Jesus’ birth brought us great joy and awe.
Bethlehem was also where we heard from Palestinian Pastor Ziad Bannoura about the incredible work the Lord is doing in the Palestinian community through his congregation. Again, I plead for your prayers for Arab, Palestinian and Messianic Jewish pastors in the land of Israel. The Lord is at work there, opening eyes to the Messiah. Be at work with the Spirit of God…pray regularly for those pastors and their congregations!
That evening, on our return to our hotel, Haled, our bus driver, was kind enough to detour so we could drive by the US Embassy in Jerusalem. It is walled, so impossible to see from the roadway, but the US flag flies proudly there! (See photo at the top of this post.)
Thanks for your interest in our tour, and thanks for following! Tomorrow we will rewind through some of the most holy sites in Jerusalem, so be sure to check back!