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The day after my amazing trip in the north, and after spending the morning on Sunday at the Dome of the Rock and attending services at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City (finally), I went over and spent several hours at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.

The name, “Yad Vashem,” is drawn from a verse in Isaiah. I think it is a fitting name, and the symbol of the memorial is fittingly a piece of rusted barbed wire, artistically rendered to look like it has a new twig representing new life growing out of the end of it.

I would direct you to the photographs (as this is the sort of place that is best understood visually), but the entire museum was off-limits to any photographs whatsoever, so I will try and relate the feel and sense of the place through writing. The building itself is a very long and comparatively narrow building spanning all of Mount Hertzel, and the interior is a sort of zig-zag pattern (where to get through, to go back and forth laterally across the building, and are blocked from walking straight through by smaller exhibits down the main hallway, sort of like: /\/\/\/\/\ ).

The museum is organized chronologically, and goes from pre-1930 issues for the European Jewry and went all the way until the end of the war. Each room was packed from floor to ceiling with various boards containing written information, real artifacts from families, communities, concentration camps, and everything in between. I will say that one of these replica pieces represented one of the two things in the whole of Yad Veshem bothered me more intensely than other parts. Above one of the rooms was an iron replica of the concentration camps’ ubiquitous signs declaring “Arbeit macht frei.” This awful slogan is quite intensely distasteful of course (particularly knowing the history of those signs beforehand), so walking into that room was difficult for me to physically.

The other part of the entire Yad Vashem presentation that bothered me so intensely that it was physically noticeable was outside the museum, when I went into the Children’s Memorial. Or, at least I tried to: being in Yad Vashem alone, and having spent the whole day considering and learning more about the Holocaust, I was not easily able to walk into it so far. Underground, I walked into the first room, and it was pitch-black. Well, completely dark save for the back-lit photographs of children who died in the Holocaust, with audio recordings in multiple languages reading the names and ages of children who were killed in the Holocaust. To be entirely honest, I couldn’t get any farther through that specific memorial than the first room.

To end on a positive note, I am pleased to report that in the midst of all this sadness and edifice built to honor people killed by humanity turning a blind eye to evil/actively participating, there is one part which can still impart some hope. The “Avenue of the Righteous,” it is a walkway through the grounds of Yad Vashem lined with trees of all species. Specifically, though, all the trees lining this avenue were planted by a member of the Righteous Among the Nations, and then the tree has a small plaque with the name and nation of the person being honored. A fitting method of reminding a visitor to Yad Vashem that humanity can never be wholly evil; there will always be at least one person who will stand up and attempt to do the right thing.

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  1. […] my friends and I decided that we wanted to attend the morning remembrance ceremonies at Yed VaShem (check out my previous post for more information). We departed around 8:50, which as I was aware was definitely not enough time […]

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