Tuesday June 21
Yad Vashem with Hayzey
Here's an open invitation that was printed in today's Jerusalem Post:
"The Great Celebration"
The tzadik has promised that he will pray in heaven for those who come to the celebration in his honor AND MIRACLES AND WONDERS WILL BE SEEN (emphasis added).
The celebration will take place, G-d willing, on 17 Sivan 5771 at the holy gravesite of our teacher and Rabbi Shalom Ifergan z'l' led by our teacher The Baba Shalom, may his merit protect us, amen.
THERE WILL BE FULL GENDER SEPARATION AT THE EVENT
THE HOLY PUBLIC IS INVITED TO ATTEND
For information on shuttles, please call: 052-607-5000
SMS the word "brit" to 1890 to make a NIS 10 donation to our charitable activities.
I was excited to go until my wife pointed out to me that I would not qualify as part of the “Holy Public” and she isnot at all interested in the “Gender Separation” part of things.
Oh well, bet it’ll be a rockin’ good time.
After 12 days of walking, talking, learning and yearning (for shawarma, of course) it is time to take a break. The Hebrew University Handlers (HUH) Brigade would have perhaps preferred it if we had joined the group for a visit to the IMRIC (Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada) Centre and the “festive lunch & student event” following.
Our tired bodies couldn’t make it past the pool, however, and so a lazy morning was had by all (well, me & Debbie anyway).
While waiting to catch our bus over to Yad Vashem, we were asked to stand aside in the lobby area for a moment for the arrival of a cavalcade of police cars and limo’s that ushered in His Excellency Leonel (“call me Leo”) Fernandez, El Presidente de Republica Dominican. We’ll catch up with Leo again tomorrow.
Hazel (“call me Hayzey”) from S.Africa was our guide today at Yad Vashem. We’ve had amazing and wonderful guides at virtually every turn these past 12 days. Hayzey was the tops.
Over the course of 3 hours Hayzey took us from the brink of war and the rise to power of the Nazi regime to every horrific atrocity perpetrated by the murderers and their collaborators. This was my 3rd visit to Yad Vashem but the first chance to see the new main exhibit. The flooring of wood slats that one passes over entering and leaving the exhibit sounds like the rumble of the train cars, leading into (and ultimately away from) the zig-zag fenced in journey into darkness.
The visit culminates in a vast circular room with photos of 600 of the perished framing every inch of the dome that rises to heaven. The centre of the room is a deep well with an unseeable bottom. The walls contain volumes with completed Pages of Testimony – names and stories - for 4 million of the 6 million Jewish souls consumed in the Holocaust and the race against time continues to try to find the information for the remaining 2 million.
The juxtaposition between the death camps of Nazi Germany and the Opening Ceremonies for the 3rd Presidential Conference in Jerusalem hosted by President Shimon Peres could not have been greater or more meaningful. All of us who were at Yad Vashem today, I suspect, had our very heavy hearts lifted by the knowledge of what the Jewish people have created in Israel from the shadow of the Holocaust.
And so, to the buses we go for a ride to Teddy Hall in Binyanei Ha’Umah – the Jerusalem International Conference Centre – for the opening plenary session of The Israeli Presidential Conference 2011: Facing Tomorrow and to hear Tony Blair, Bernard-Henry Levy (French public intellectual & philosopher) and Professor Amos Oz (famous Israeli left-wing author) discuss “Nations, Interests & Ethics in the Journey Towards Tomorrow”.
We missed an earlier ‘warm up’ session that featured Shakira (who Shimon Peres introduced as “Sharika”), Sarah Silverman & Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) talking about “My Recipe for a Better Tomorrow”. Heard they were interesting and that Sarah was funny.
We did arrive in time to tour the Hebrew U. exhibit before the opening session. Hebrew U. was the only university asked to co-sponsor the conference and had a major presence. Our Hebrew U. Board of Governors badges gave us access to the VIP Lounge (free food & drinks) – more to come on that tomorrow.
Shimon Peres came in to formally ‘open’ the Hebrew U. exhibit while we were there, so that gave us our first ‘up close and personal’ look at him and a chance to hear the famous gravelly voice. The next came in the main plenary hall about 30 minutes later when he formally opened the Presidential Conference itself.
There are 1,800 people from around the world here joining 2,700 Israelis. Security is tight but not overbearing (metal detectors; a lot of people touching their finger to their ear or speaking into their coat lapel; that sort of thing).
We had a woman seated behind us in the main hall from the US who pretty much yakked through the session about how wonderful it was to see her friend the Israeli artist Ya’acov Agam (kinetic, optical art).
The guy was seated in the row in front of us and she spent a good 10 minutes driving the poor guy crazy (he was born in 1928 so that makes him about 3,200 yrs. old now) trying to get him to remember how he had once met her in God knows where town, USA. Finally, he got recognized by the people who speak into their lapels and they whisked him into the VIP seating section and out of her clutches.
Mercifully, she herself left about ½ way through the session (I think the French accent of Bernard-Henry Levy was too much for her to understand).
Not surprisingly, the Middle East and Israel were the focus of the speeches tonight. Tony Blair played the peacebroker role well and started out by telling us about how he was to be asked to speak tonight:
“I was delighted to hear that I would be on a panel with 2 brilliant heavyweights, Amos Oz and Bernard-Henry Levy. I will be the counterweight.”
BH Levy & Amos Oz spoke about “the Arab Spring”. Levy felt that Israel has a duty to be at the forefront of nations who welcome the changes in the Arab world. He is an optimist but says that, no matter what comes, it cannot be worse for Israel than, for example, Muammar Ghadafi.
Oz is a well-known antagonist of the Haredi settlers and those of them in the crowd (relatively few, overall – which is not a surprise since this sort of intellectual debate isn’t really their style unless it’s about Torah) heartily and regularly boo’ed his thoughts.
As the saying goes: “It’s not just that you have 3 opinions from 3 Israelis, because every Israeli has 3 opinions himself”.
We met Merle & Murray Palay at Café Café in the Mamilla Mall for dinner after the session. It was almost 10:30pm and none of us had had lunch that day (it turns out that the “festive lunch” at IMRIC had to be cut short due to reasons beyond Merle’s control and me & Debbie miscalculated how much time we had after the pool and before Yad Vashem so our lunch consisted of a shared pretzel.
Eating dinner at 10:30pm isn’t the worst thing in the world, considering that the restaurants are packed and don’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. It’s just that …. well…. we were hungry! But a “good hungry”, you know?