Today we had one the heavier days of our trip. It started off normal enough with us getting up and making a stop at the Knesset building to learn about the legislative process in Israel, and take a look at some of the artwork of the building. We were also able to sit in the area usually reserved for guests of honor in the Knesset chamber (it was not in session) and we then went to a committee room to learn exactly how a bill becomes a law in Israel.
After this interesting tour of about an hour we went over to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. After a quick reunion with our old medic Oryan outside the building, we met our tour guide. As we walked through the building we looked at how the Nazis rose to power, and learned about the process of how they went from discrimination to extermination. The exhibits themselves were very informative and we were met with a wealth of testimonials from survivors who described their experiences, ranging from those affected by the Kristallnacht Pogrom, a woman who survived the Babi Yar massacre, among others. In addition we were able to see many artifacts whether they be religious or just day-to-day items that were rescued from Europe during the time of the Holocaust. It was a very powerful experience for everyone, because despite our differing levels of previous exposure to the Holocaust we all felt the power of what we were seeing. After leaving the exhibition we were met with a beautiful view overlooking Jerusalem that really spoke to the connection between the Holocaust and the formation of the state of Israel, and what the city of Jerusalem really means to us. We thought we had gone through the toughest part but boy were we wrong. After the exhibition we went to the Children’s Remembrance Hall. As soon as we entered the building we were immediately met with darkness, with the exception of pictures of children who were slaughtered by the Nazis. As we walked through the pictures disappeared and we were met with a speaker which simply read off the names and ages of children who had died. I can personally say that this was one of the toughest five minutes of my life. After we had left the exhibition a few of us were teary eyed but as a whole we were able to keep it together. In contrast nearly everyone was sobbing as we left the Children’s Remembrance Hall. It is simply hard to put into writing the power and horror we all felt at seeing these images and hearing the names of people who could have easily been us. We took about 10 minutes to let ourselves cry after leaving the hall and then we went back to the bus. We were largely silent and red eyed as we were still attempting to comprehend the horror and emotion of what we had just experienced.
It would have been ill advised to jump into another activity after such a powerful experience so we returned to the hotel to have lunch and have some downtime. Later in the afternoon we hopped back on the bus and took the short drive to Mt. Herzl to learn about the life of Theodore Herzl and explore the graves of many influential Israelis including Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Perez, Golda Meir, and Herzl himself. After paying our respects and laying stones on their graves we ended the day on the high note by going to a burger restaurant and enjoying each other’s company as we wrap up our time in Israel. All in all, it was a very powerful day and we can’t wait to see what our last day has in store for us!
– Josh S.