Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 33: Yad Vashem

We began yesterday with a leisurely stroll through the Old City before many of its shops opened their doors.  We meandered to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where we sat outside to enjoy some coffee and lemonade.  The foot traffic began to pick up and we noticed more people opening their doors after about an hour, which spurred us to continue our journey.  We stopped in stores as we explored the city further, even finding the store where one of our friends is volunteering for the next month.  Around lunchtime, we made it back to our guesthouse to prepare to set out across the city to visit Yad Vashem, the holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew) museum.

A new light rail system began operations just under a year ago that stretches from one side of Jerusalem to the other.  One of the stops is by the Damascus Gate, which is close to where we are staying.  Due to delays and stopped trains, our trip took about an extra 30-45 minutes, but we eventually made it to the end of the rail system from where we walked about a half mile to the museum.

The name Yad Vashem comes from Isaiah 56:5, which says, "And I will give to them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (yad - a memorial; va'shem - and a name) that shall not be cut off."  If you have been to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., it is a very different experience.  The museum narrates the NAZI rise to power and the groups subsequent persecution and mass murdering of Jewish people (it also includes information about others who died, including Gypsies, those with disabilities, and homosexuals).  Pictures were not allowed within the building, but I would encourage you to look through some online.  The museum provided a plethora of information which was at times emotional.  I felt like a key difference between the two museums was that the Yad Vashem wished to inform over eliciting specific emotional reactions at certain junctures.  

One of the most moving portions of the museum came at the very end.  After we exited the main museum and had walked through the gardens for a bit, we entered into a monument dedicated to the 1.5 million children who were murdered.  The room was completely dark save for a great number of lit candles incased within glass panes and panes of mirrors.  It looked like a million candles sparkled before us, stretching into eternity.  In the background an orchestra played as a voice read off the names and ages of those murdered.  

It was a moving experience, and one that I am happy to have had.  We are exploring more sites around the Old City today so that we can eventually meet up with our friend Shua later this afternoon to hangout and see some of the ongoing excavations in the Old City.