This morning we were all woken up at 6:15 by the shrill ring of the hotel phone. We had breakfast and tefillah, and then went down to the lobby. When we opened the doors to go outside, we were greeted by the most insane sight. The ground was covered in a thick layer of white snow. To make the most of this incredible opportunity, we had a snowball fight. Everyone was out in the cold, armed with snowballs, taking cover under trees and walls. It was crazy. Friend against friend, mad against kid and Masada vs Moriah. Even though, some people may have dropped their phones we had a blast. After our snowball fight sadly ended, we begrudgingly boarded the bus dripping wet, and our hands hurting from the cold.
We drove for 3 hours through the dense Polish forests, once luscious and green, now draped with a sheet of snow, and then we finally made it to Lancut. We parked in a bus station and walked through a beautiful park to the Lancut shule. As we walked in, we were mesmerised. The tall ceilings were covered in ornate pictures and many tefillot. We were told of the history of the shule and the inability for it to be destroyed. As we walked around we started singing Am Yisrael Chai. It was amazing. There are no Jews left in Lancut, it was supposed to be destroyed in the holocaust and the shule is never used, yet eighty Jewish teenagers from the other side of the world were proudly singing, showing that the Jewish people are still alive.
As we went to the next room, we were told that in the very room we were in, was the very birthplace of Chasidut in Poland. The Shamash (caretaker) of the shule spoke to us in hebrew but we found out that he was not actually Jewish, he realised that hebrew is such a holy language and that he wanted to learn it so badly. He showed us a piece of Torah from the end of the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) that was burned by the Nazis. We all stood there in silence while Kovi read an extract from the Torah.
We got on the bus and drove for one and a half hours to the grave of Rabbi Elimelech of Lezajsk. All 160 of us crowded into a small room, and in the darkness we closed our eyes and sung, from the depths of our hearts praying for the sick and for our greatest desires to be fulfilled.
From there we went to the Children’s Forest. We walked down a long, winding track until we reached the site where the children are buried.
Tzachi, one of the tour guides spoke of his own children and how much they meant to him. He spoke about how his children are his life and how it is his biggest nightmare for this to happen to his own children.
We stood in silence. How could someone do something like that? 600 children. All with different potentials and destinies that were destroyed by the heartless Nazis.
Then the silence was broken by a loud and piercing cry ‘AM YISRAEL CHAI’ We repeated this verse countless times, screaming into the trees, who seventy years ago witnessed the massacre of all those children.
We walked back to the busses all teary and filled with emotion and our madrichim handed us a letter, written by our parents. They said how much we meant to them and provided comfort to us after our emotional day.
We travelled to a restaurant where we ate a much needed meal, and spoke to all our friends. We concluded this day with a debrief of our emotional day with our family groups.