Day 10: Netzach, Israel - Jessica Curtis

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As the youth of the Jewish community, there is a continuous and essential emphasis placed on us to study the atrocities of the Holocaust and the impact it had on the Jewish nation, as well as the wider world. By visiting various concentration camps and other key landmarks of the Holocaust across Poland, we were able to gain a critical insight into the terrors of persecution, discrimination and alienation against the Jews.

As our Poland experience came to an end, the perfect way to conclude and transition into the next 5 weeks, as a part of Israel’s unique atmosphere, was a day comprised of visiting Yad Vashem, followed by a tour through Ben Yehuda and a performance by the Moriah Tour Band.

As it was my first time, I was especially intrigued to visit the world renowned Holocaust memorial museum, which continued to enrich my knowledge of the Shoah. However, I was able to do so through a contrasting perspective to that of the confrontation we faced in Poland. The various exhibits at Yad Vashem share different anecdotes and facts about specific people and events. They discuss life for the Jewish community before, during and after the war across Europe.

The building's architectural design, which hints to different events and occurrences in the Holocaust, starts the exhibition. The complex is in the shape of a triangular prism; the significance of this is emphasised, as the triangular cross-section represents one of our great Jewish and Israeli symbols - the Star of David. This is done to highlight that we lost half of our nation, and therefore half of our iconic symbol. The museum also purposely has a distinct transition from carpet to stone, in order to make you feel comfortable when learning about life before the war, and then uneasy and tense when surrounded by hard concrete walls and floors. The exhibit ends with a beautiful view wedged between two continuing stone walls, amplifying that although we, the Jewish people, greatly suffered there is still a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for future generations.

The most impactful and interesting exhibitions at Yad VaShem in my opinion were the ‘Outbreak of World Wad II’, ‘Combat and Resistance Against the Nazis’ and ‘Hall of Names’. I especially enjoyed learning more about the political aspect of the Holocaust; specifically the creation of the Nazi Party and their rise to power through manipulation. This allowed me to gain knowledge of the origins of the anti-Jewish mentality in Europe, and how this led to what we witnessed in Poland. I was also able to relate facts and stories to locations we visited in Poland by learning more about Jewish rebellions and uprisings like the one that occurred at the Warsaw Ghetto. Yad Vashem has managed to collect numerous records, names and biological details of the millions of Jewish victims of the Shoah and present them in the jaw-dropping and extraordinary exhibition ‘The Hall of Names’. An immense cylindrical wall is filled with the faces and names of those who perished, and this is surrounded by shelves filled with hundreds of books containing testimonies of survivors. This highly anticipated exhibit, and many others  allowed me to relate my emotions felt in Poland to the facts and statistics of the war, therefore giving me an overall greater understanding of the significance of the Holocaust.

Later that day, we were able to unwind and enjoy the vibrant life of Israel on Ben Yehuda Street. Once again, it was my first time in this iconic area of Jerusalem, and I was excited to indulge in delicious cuisine and witness the lifestyle of diverse people in Israel. Many of the students enjoyed an Israeli feast of falafels and shawarma, while others chose to enjoy the other popular foods like burgers and sushi. For dessert, people enjoyed a range of treats such as chocolate crepes, frozen yogurt and ice cream.

While many people were focused on their unbelievable meals, they were also fascinated by the diverse and vibrant life of the area. I had a specific realisation of the undeniable strength of our Jewish community, not only in Israel, but around the world. It is such an amazing thing to experience; witnessing all types of Jews together, enjoying the freedom to practice OUR religion in OUR homeland. No matter what obstacles are thrown at us, we are able to overcome them by working together as a nation. I know that because of this mentality, we, the Jewish Nation, will continue to grow and prosper. We will deny the world around us the ability to drastically affect us through pain and discrimination that will always be somewhat present. WE are strong, and WE will continue to develop our Jewish world.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of Israel has in store for the IST group.  It is bound to be an unforgettable experience that each and every one of us will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Day 10: Lehava, Israel - Sarah Miller

Day 9: Lehava, Israel - Jessica Fittinghoff and Mikayla Edelman