Saturday, May 7, 2011

I left my tears, but the pain continues: Yom HaShoah in Jerusalem

Last Monday was Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It's an opportunity to commemorate but also to see Israel under very unique circumstances. At 10:00 in the morning, a siren sounds and everything stops. People stop their cars in the middle of the road and get out. Everyone stands for two minutes, silently. After that the radio and tv stations play things that pertain to the Holocaust - especially a song call "Everyone Has A Name." 

I felt very strongly about going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem for their ceremonies, so I stayed over with the lovely Rolands.

I bused over to J'lem on Sunday and went to the shuk before going to Chez Roland.

Ascending in the Jerusalem Hills:

On Monday morning, I took a bus to Yad Vashem. I was just down the hill in the bus at 10:00 for the two minutes of silence. I didn't take pictures because it was just so moving and I was thinking about the hugeness of the loss. I am the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors (my grandmothers were in Europe during WWII). To honor them, I wore a scarf from one and a brooch from the other. My grandmother lost her parents. My great-grandmother in the USA lost all but one of her siblings. The family estimates that 80 members of that family were killed in one night in Lithuania.

The whole country stops. It's like nothing I have ever seen before. This picture was taken just after the two minutes of silence.

I got off the bus at Yad Vashem and took some photos of the statue at the bus stop/view point.

For the day, we had to take minibuses from the military cemetery at Har Herzl to Yad Vashem. 
These are the gates of the Yad Vashem grounds:

The view of the beginning of the museum. The museum is long and gets narrower at the top with skinny glass ceiling at the top. It plunges into the hillside and emerges on the other end with the walls peeling open to the Jerusalem hills.

After a very invasive security check:
"Do you have any weapons?"
YGirl: "No."
"Anything that might look like a weapon?"
YGirl: "Nope."
YGirl: "No."
YGirl: "No."
"Tear gas."
YGirl: "No. Are you joking?"
"No. Do you have anything in your pockets?"
YGirl: "I don't have any pockets."
"Are you sure?"

I arrived at the very end of the ceremony of wreath-laying. All the international support groups of the museum were there in addition to all the ministries of government and NGOs. The Prime Minister and President were there too.

After the ceremony, I went for a somber little walk around the grounds.
Here you can see the end of the museum popping out of the hillside with the two walls peeling apart.

Then I went to a ceremony where the public reads names of Holocaust victims in the Hall of Remembrance and then they lay white carnations on the name of one of the concentration camps on the floor. This was the most emotional part of the day. I didn't have time to line up to read my families' names, but I sat and listened to others do it. People stood and read that names of their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Some people had all the names and ages of their relatives, but others didn't. One man said "I was five years old, so I don't know everyone's name, but this is the family name." Some survivors bought their children and grandchildren with them. One was particularly moving because the grandson came in his brand-new IDF uniform and read the names of his great-grandparents. I spent a lot of time there. I cried so much because nothing can compare to hearing these names from the lips of their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews etc. 

The level of shared grief was so intense and massive. Even though the US has gotten better about Holocaust education, this is something that could never exist in there. This uniquely Israeli.

As I walked back to the bus, a gentleman stopped me at said:

"I saw that you left your tears at the ceremony, but the pain remains, doesn't it?"

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