Day 1 - Warsaw
We arrived at the Warsaw Airport feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what to expect. Meeting the Israeli Mads and reuniting with friends with excitement, the reality of IST began to hit us all.
We departed on the buses which led us to our first destination, the Jewish Cemetery of Warsaw. We were confronted and surrounded by a mass of graves of our ancestors and my knowledge of Jewish history was placed in front of my eyes as we stood by the grave of famous Judenrat Leader 'Adam Cernikow'. While we continued through the dark, eerie forest of the cemetry, I began to feel a sense of trepidation as we observed the hundreds of Jewish names engraved on their tombstones and pondered the legacy that they left behind. All types of people from all types of backgrounds, called on us to live a meaningful life.
Our next stop was the Warsaw ghetto wall, where we witnessed and imagined the struggles of thousands of Jews forced to live within an area that was 2.5% of the city. I felt a deep connection to the wall as I recalled the inhumane and horrific conditions these Jews suffered for many years and I realised how privileged I was to be standing by this very wall, as a Year 10 Moriah College student embarking on this journey of a lifetime.
We were taken to the Umshalgplatz, the place where the Nazis rounded up the Jews as they began the deportation process to the Treblinka death camp. This really left me in shock, as I felt extremely distressed by the thought of such atrocities being inflicted on the Jews by the Nazis and it once again made me feel grateful for what I have been given in my life.
For our last stop, we stood in the freezing cold by what was the Mila 18 Headquarters of the Jewish Combat Organisation, the organisation which courageously resisted in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. After learning about this significant event in the Holocaust, I was truly amazed by what had occurred and could not believe I was actually standing in the same spot where this all happened many years ago.
As our first day in Poland, I thought today was the beginning of a great learning experience for us all and I cannot wait to explore more of this inspiring journey of IST!