It’s a day for emotions to run wild. We start in tears at Yad Vashem, the recently updated memorial to the Holocaust — no, not just the Holocaust, but everything leading to it, and the additional horrors that followed (and are following).
First a visit to the Children’s Memorial, a gut-wrenching piece of art (no photography inside). Music and darkness opening to reflections of a million and a half points of light. The darkness makes you walk slowly through as the names, ages and places of the children are recited and sink in to your soul.
Next into the newly enhanced museum itself. Beautifully designed…a sledge hammer to your heart. It crosses you back and forth from the events and traumas before to every phase of the inhumanity to the indifference and cruelty occurring beyond. Photos, objects, quotations, interpretations pop up in front of you, making you gasp harder with each one. Most moving are the video testimonies of survivors putting faces to it all. You can wind through for hours. At the end you walk out to a terrace with an amazing view toward the hills around Jerusalem, filling you with both hope and the comfort that Israel is a place welcoming to all Jews, from anywhere, offering sanctuary from any unspeakable. If only this land of Israel were here as the horrors were building. The world would be a very different place.
Then on to the Israel Museum to get a hard look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, found hidden in clay pots in caves in the Judean desert hills as described yesterday. The dome above covers the display and is intended to reflect the top of the clay vessels hiding the scrolls. Again, no photography allowed inside, but a beautiful display of facsimiles and actual portions of the scrolls. For a close look yourself, Google and the Museum (I think) have digitized all the scrolls making them available to all who want to see. Amazing that these codex were written 1,000 plus years before what we thought were the oldest writings of the law.
From the museum we stopped back to the market for some yummy pita-stuffed lunch (yes, Marsha’s eating again), and a wind down the emotions walk back to the hotel to get ready for the Shabbat…it’s Friday afternoon, and everything, I mean everything will shut down by about 4 pm.
On the walk back we find a sign post listing all that is going on in Jerusalem. We carefully read it for something of interest. Not.
We pass the Jerusalem Great Synagogue on the way and see that they have a candle lighting service at the beginning of Shabbat services. Since our night tour of the Old City is not until 7 pm we change our clothes and go back to the synagogue. Unfortunately the greeters tell us there is no candle lighting before the 5:30 services and invite us to stay (all the hotels have candle lighting near their lobbies — so guests don’t light up their rooms instead). We can’t come back then, but tour the grand synagogue built in Sephardic tradition instead. Beautiful place.
Our evening takes us back to the Western Wall to observe and take part in the chaotic Shabbat services. It is an amazing frenzy of every sect of judaism, praying, swaying, singing, dancing in a wall to wall mob of frock coats, grandiose fur hats, sideburns and tsitzit. Marsha manages to get to the wall while I can’t on the men’s side through the tumult (always thought that was a yiddish word). No photos on Shabbat…sorry.
Then a Shabbat dinner at a nearby Kibbutz on the hills of Jerusalem. A very rich Kibbutz who traded in growing vegetables for growing real estate some years ago. It’s an amazing dinner for a Shabbat (where all the foods had to be prepared much earlier in the day. I’m not sure where all this food is going…ahhhh, yes, I think I do. To bed.
It’s hard to go through any Memorial Museums, but this one would be the toughest.
I cried and I am sitting in Manhattan. Good post, Joel.