Israel: Day 5

Today we finally got to experience Jerusalem. It was an intense day followed by an amazing night. I am so incredibly happy to be here!!!
In the morning we went to Yad V’Hashem which is the Holocaust memorial museum. This helped answer some of the questions I had about why a Jewish state was necessary. The fact that all of this happened less than 75 years ago boggles my mind. That is less than one lifetime, less than two generations.
First, we heard from a Romanian holocaust survivor. She discussed her experiences for us and described the ghetto and the two concentration camps she lived in. While she told some frightening stories, she also had a happy ending, marrying one of the British soldiers after the war.
The first exhibit we looked at was the children’s memorial. This was my most powerful emotional experience of the day. First, in the stone was carved the face of the child of the Holocaust survivors who had funded this monument. Then a room with large pictures of faces of the children, followed by a room with candles in the center, surrounded by mirrors. This made the candles reflect an infinite number of times in the black room, giving the illusion of a starry sky. A voice spoke the names, ages, and origins of the may children who were killed.
After that we followed our docent through the long triangular museum. In the entry, videos of Jews before the war were pieced together to create a moving example of the diversity of the lives of Jews all over Europe. Throughout the museum there were many testimonials and our guide did an excellent job explaining how the bigoted mentality had formed and the anguish of Germany that led it to a desperate power struggle. All of these things had seemed to me, so inhuman. But the guard ensured us that it was extremely human. All of it made me understand the importance of Zionism clearly for the first time.
After the Holocaust museum, we met 6 Israeli soldiers on a break who joined our group for the rest of the trip, Yoni, Guy, Yotam, Korim, Karim, and Ainad. We all got on the bus to travel to an amazing farmer’s market for lunch. We did an activity in a garden nearby to learn more about Israeli culture and then hit the marketplace. At first we all walked along the rows together, eyeing the sacks and stands of nuts, meats, Israeli candies, fruits and vegetables. Then Harper and I branched off and bought some tea. We wandered into a yard filled with 40 or 50 old men playing backgammon in various areas. Near that we found this amazing restaurant where the tiny tables were crammed into a small blue room with the “kitchen” in the open and the old cook pouring olive oil into the food out of a Jack Daniel’s bottle. We ordered a bunch of dishes, eyeing the people next to us (at the same table) for ideas as to what they were. I tried okra over rice and noodles and a delicious chicken dish, among other things. The hummus here is so amazing. I assume it’s because they use fresh garbanzo beans, not canned because it is incredibly creamy and rich and amazing and I could eat hummus and the various breads we’ve had everyday if there weren’t plenty of other delicious things to try too!
After Harper got the number of the guy at the table next to us (more as a souvenir than anything else), we met up with the group and headed to Mount Hertzl, the national cemetery for soldiers and political figures. Shahar told us stories of war heroes and we sang Eli Eli at Golda Meir’s grave. I think everyone in the group connected most to the grave of a boy who moved to Israel from PA and died only a few years ago in the most recent war. His grave had a Phillies hat and helmet, a poem in English, a picture of him and of his family, and the candles near it were lit. It was all so American and he was just our age. Some people cried and I think everyone was moved.
After Mount Hertzl, we had a night out in Jerusalem. Nearly all of the group started at a bar and moved to a club. Harper and Shahar and I opted for a different activity which I can’t really talk about, but it was nothing unsafe and it was simply incredible. That was the night and the moments that truly made me fall in love with these two people and this country. The adrenaline stayed with me through the entire next day. I’m in love love love!!

One thought on “Israel: Day 5

  1. The children’s memorial was one of my most powerful emotional experiences as well… one of my most vivid memories of the trip was the candles and mirrors and the names of all the children being spoken. Very moving.

    Also, I am quite curious about this activity that you choose not to speak about… verrry mysterious, you are.

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