Where It All Began - Fall 2019 travel blog

view exiting the museum

Jerusalem

children's memorial

Jersalem model

Jersalem model

Jersalem model

Jersalem model

with the holocaust speaker


The breakfast room was not crowded today, so our waitress had time to chat. She is from France and only has been here a few months. She lamented the fact that she had taken on Israeli citizenship so quickly. It wasn't that she regretted the decision, but she had not had time to visit the paces in Palestine that we have seen a few weeks ago. Now she is not allowed to go to them. She was surprised that the only place she had the opportunity to meet Arabs was at work at the hotel. When she needed to buy things for her new apartment, her fellow Jews would only tell her about Jewish stores. She found it all quite clannish compared with how she interacted with people at home in France.

I have to say we were not looking forward to visiting Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. But the consequences of what occurred during World War II are a major reason that Israel as a country exists today and this memorial must be here. HItler managed to exterminate two out of every three Jews within his reach. The museum was dim and dark and the exhibits were arranged chronologically, starting from his earliest efforts to rein in Jewish activity to the end of the war when the world became much more aware of the consequences of his final solution. The museum contained artifacts, films, personal testimonials on video, photographs and art installations. Just before we came to the exit of the museum we went through the Hall of Names. Photos of those who perished covered the ceiling and shelves of records lined the walls. A hole in the floor symbolized the lost unknown: victims whose names will never be recorded because they and their entire families, all their friends, and everyone else who had known them was also killed, leaving no one to bear witness to the fact that they ever were on earth. Outside there was a view of a panorama of Jerusalem today, a victorious response to the final solution. The population of Israel today is about six million, the same number of Jews who were exterminated by Hitler. Having been to Dachau and the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, we did not learn anything we did not already know today. Men can be unimaginably cruel to each other. Hitler may have gotten the idea from the Armenian genocide in World War I: Rohingya are being exterminated in Myanmar today.

On the site we met with a Holocaust survivor, a French Jew born in 1927. She talks to groups like ours regularly and had vivid memories from her childhood in France, when her family sent her into the countryside to live with a Catholic family who raised her until the war was over. Although she was not really in physical danger and her folks could maintain contact by mail, the stress of having to deny what she was and pretend to fit in took a toll. At the beginning she really did not understand what was going on and thought she was going on vacation. Her parents were in the French resistance and were able to reunite once the war was over. At that point she felt closer to her new family than her parents: another wrenching adjustment. Eventually, what was left of her extended family immigrated to Israel and were able to live life as they saw fit. She maintained ties with her Catholic family and they have visited one another repeatedly over the years. They were honored here as civilians who made a difference and took the risk to shelter Jews at their own personal peril. In 2002 she lost one of her grandsons in a skirmish with the Arabs when he was shot peaking out of his tank by a sniper in Ramallah. She was a great speaker and had us laughing and crying as she told the story of her long and eventful life.

Then we went to the Israel Museum where we saw a huge model of the Old City of Jersuselem with the Second Temple. It help us to orient ourselves and get an idea of immensity of the temple. The highlight here was the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, as well as rare early medieval biblical manuscripts. The scrolls were discovered in 1947–56 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran in present day Jordan. At first people did not understand their value and sold little pieces of them to collectors. New technology is helping archivists to preserve and decipher these priceless documents.

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