Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sh'ma Israel...................

I am with Yemima today and we are going to Jerusalem. Maybe I should write what I put in my journal.

"Yemima took me to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, I don't really know what I can say about it."

That was my entry and I have been wondering what I would write about when I got to this point, but think I have an awful lot to say about it which surprises me.

I was now in Modi'in just north of Tel Aviv, and there had been a terrific storm during the night, in fact it was still raining when we left for Jerusalem and continued raining for quite some time. I didn't realize that the drive to Jerusalem was taking us right through the West Bank until I got to a checkpoint. The country is probably only nine miles wide at this point, but there is an agreement that the road is open. We passed road signs for Ramallah where there has recently been trouble, but that was as close as I go to it.

An Israeli settlement on the West Bank

A different view of the Dome of the Rock from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Yemima took me a little further up the hill as she wanted to show me the desert which is literally just the other side of the hill. It does seem strange to have forests and fertile land on one side and then for the greenery to peter out and then desert. Anyway, we then made our way down from here to Yad Vashem.

I really wasn't sure what I was going to feel or how I would react to whatever I was going to see there. I know there are a lot of people who think it didn't happen or would rather shut their eyes to it, so if you do not wish to read further please feel free to close this down now, but personally I felt that I had to face it, it is such a huge chunk of history that is important. I remember seeing it in my history books at school, and hearing about it - even though I am not Jewish, and because of that it would be easy to ignore it. But..........

Yemima and I parked the car and then she said we should have a coffee before going in. I was surprised how busy it was with lots of tour groups so down we went and got our coffee. We took the only two seats left which was at a table with a couple of bus drivers. I'm busy trying to prepare myself with whatever I'm going to face when a woman came up to the table and spoke to one of the drivers:-
"Where's Andre?"
"I don't know, he must be with your group."
"I lost my group. Call him.Tell him I've had enough Hell for one day I want to go - now."


And that was before I've even gone through the main entrance to the Museum. 

We finished our coffee, me seething inwardly at the crassness of this person, and then made our way to the main entrance. We had entered through the main foyer, but then had to go outside again and through the arch that leads to the tunnel where the museum is housed but before we could go in, there were a couple of women using the archway as a photo op. Now I don't mind a photo op, not that I feature in too many, but throwing you hair over your shoulder and posing hand on hip and smiling under the arch that plainly says Holocaust museum didn't seem particularly appropriate to me, but maybe I just have a funny way of looking at things.

So down we go and enter the museum. It is a long tunnel but takes you from one side to the other in a zigzag, you cannot walk straight down the middle. It's an incredibly large space and starts with illustrations in books from the Middle Ages showing how Jews have been viewed through history. I spent a lot of time reading and learnt a lot, then it was through this room and out into the tunnel where there were books which were similar to the ones that would have been burnt on Kristallnacht.
And onwards with the story of how things deteriorated from this point, the rise of Hitler, his persecution of the Jews and others, Romanies and later, Resistance members, the ghettos, the round up of Jews in Paris which tied up with a film I had seen last year at the film society, but here it was. Photograph albums by German soldiers showing them laughing while they cut the beards of Jewish men who looked resigned and proud- I told you this would be difficult - the personal stories of so many people and the stories of heroism, cabinets full of stories and moving across the museum in a zigzag as I mentioned, here are the rails and a wagon, here the story of Treblinka, Auschwitz, Belsen Bergen, the death marches. In the floor, a pile of shoes under glass, ( It took me back to some photos that Shoshi had posted last summer when she was in  Hungary on business. They went to the memorial there on the banks of the Danube. Rows of shoes on the the walk by the river where they had ben told to take them off and then shot and dumped in the river), a model of Auschwitz with model figures, nothing left to the imagination, the uniforms of the camps, the yellow Star of David which would have been sewn to their clothes.  The photographs, the recording of physical state when the American doctors went into some of the camps, "22yrs old, but emaciated so looks much older, died the following day".  So much to see and take in. I also learnt a lot, I didn't know that Europe was a bit slow on the uptake and largely shutting their eyes to what was going on.

 I think we spent four hours going through here.

The museum was full, lots of tour groups but also school groups and Army groups. It was interesting to se that the school groups were quite boisterous at the beginning but became very subdued towards the end.

Carrying on into the Hall of Names where the names of victims are recorded.

Eventually coming out of the tunnel into the light- which I didn't think I was feeling

This lovely sculpture is explained in the first photo and I show it here so you can read about it.

The gate to the Hall of Remembrance. On the floor the names of 22 camps in Europe

The Menorah outside the Hall of Remembrance 

For me, this was the saddest place of all. the Children's memorial. We walked down this ramp and then walked through a door. The room inside is pitch black save for five candles burning which are reflected in hundreds of mirrors as a memorial to the 1.5 million children who were murdered. It is hard to get your bearings as you cannot see yourself reflected at all. As you walk round this memorial, the names, age and country of origin of all the children are read out.

I told you I had a lot to say and I think I will leave this here.

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