November 27, 2013
As we awoke today Jerusalem greeted us with much needed sunshine and warmth after our gloomy week in Poland. Everyone was in high spirits after our later then usual wake up call at 7:30 am followed by a delicious breakfast comprising of vegetables, toast, spreads and eggs that we ate after prayers. We then embarked on our short bus ride (compared to the ones that went for hours in Poland) to Yad Vashem. After seeing the horrors we witnessed in Poland, Yad Vashem allowed us to ease from the darkest depths of our nations experiences to the glory that is our home, Israel.
As we arrived we split into three groups to begin our tours of the museum, which is in the shape of an elongated triangle, with the rooms in chronological order of the experiences of European Jewry throughout the Nazi regime. As we entered we saw authentic donated footage of Jewish life before the war. We started to walk through all the rooms, passing by films of the infamous burning of books, original Nazi flags bearing large Swastikas and we were able to add to our already accumulated knowledge about the Nuremberg Laws, ‘Mein Kampf’ and Kristallnacht. As we entered the room portraying life in the Ghetto’s, we walked along train tracks surrounded by bricks and lamp posts brought in from Warsaw. We were told to sit down in a little side enclosure, we watched as two men told of their experiences of starvation, this was in stark contrast to our full stomachs after breakfast and the knowledge of the lunch that would be waiting for us when we walked out of the museum. We continued to pass by pictures and facts that we had been able to see in real life just a few days ago, such as models of Belzec and Auschwitz, making it all the more tangible to us. For our final two stops we went to what our tour guide regarded as some of the most important rooms in Yad Vashem. Upon entering the first we saw a circular room lined with shelves, not all were filled but the majority had black folders on them, these were names of victims, approximately 4 200 000 of them, we walked in further under a cone-like structure, as we looked up we saw pictures of survivors, and looking down from the barrister we saw a pit with what looked like black water at the bottom, the pictures above us cast a blurred reflection. We then moved to the children's memorial. For those who hadn’t visited Yad Vashem before, including myself, it was amazing to go from the brightness of the sunlight into the dark room barely lit by the reflections of five lights, symbolizing the potential worlds of the 1.5 million children that perished in the Holocaust. Following this we had a short lunch break looking out on the stunning view of Jerusalem. For our final hour at Yad Vashem we had an interesting yet scary class on Holocaust denial and a quick debriefing in Family Groups to finish off the heavier section of IST, we were all very relieved and excited to move forward in Israel.
After Yad Vashem we stopped at a shopping center to get some much anticipated retail therapy. We were all very excited to see the multiple restaurants, welcoming the Israeli food experience with open arms after Poland. The ice coffee at ‘Cafe Hillel’ was so popular they ran out of it! Following the free time we had when we got back home we eagerly went down stairs for Chanukia painting. Everyone got into the spirit of the Chag as we channeled our inner five year olds for the arts and crafts session. Our last formal order of business for the day was dinner, everyone rushed in to dish up the food that awaited us and amongst all the chatter Gabi managed to get in a short but meaningful D’var Torah about not letting anger overtake you. There was then the opportunity to get an early night, but most of the group chose to end the day with some fun activities in the lobby, relaxing as we talked to family and friends, the ideal way to end our time in Jerusalem for now.