Yom HaZikaron -- Yad Vashem.
There are three new missions in the hotel, as others have left to tour other areas of
We board our buses at 8:00 a.m. to visit Yad Vashem, stopping on the way to view the community of Gilo. Technically a “settlement,” it sits on one of the hills surrounding
On a map, there are separate dots representing
We arrive at Yad Vashem a little after 9 a.m., and park the buses in a lot whose entrance has prominently displayed a quotation from Ezekiel 37:14: “And I will put My spirit into you, and you shall live, and I will set you on your land.”
The quotation indicates the purpose of the museum is one of memory: to provide a place where the six million and their lost communities will have names, where their lives will be remembered, and where they can remind the world how completely, quickly and easily twenty centuries of civilization degenerated into mass murder. But perhaps the quotation refers to the Jewish people as a whole.
It takes a long time to get through the museum. We are given two hours and it is not enough.
We start with the memorial to the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust. It is a simple room of darkness, candles and mirrors with multiple reflections, with a voice that slowly reads the names, their ages, and places of birth.
It is a sobering monument of sadness and waste. What theological argument explains one point five million children? And Rabbi Wolpe reminds us that, given the extraordinary contributions Holocaust survivors have made to the world, one can only imagine what literature and music, what scientific breakthroughs and medical cures, were buried with those children.
We move on to the main portion of the museum, which consists of rooms of pictures, documents, maps, letters, artifacts, short films, oral histories, timelines, and more, which collectively and individually convey the magnitude of the disaster. So much history. We know this history, and yet we don’t know it -- the details are new, and overwhelming.
I stop to look at the schoolboy notebook of Abramek Koplowicz, which contains his poems written in the careful, curved handwriting of a child. It is entitled “My Own Creation: Litzmanndadt Ghetto, 1943,” and there is a translation below the notebook of his poem called “Dreams:”
When I grow up and get to be twenty,
I’ll travel and see this world of plenty,
In a bird with an engine I will set myself down,
Take off and fly into space, far above the ground.
I’ll fly and I’ll cruise and I’ll soar up high,
Above a world so lovely, into the sky.
And so, delighted by all the world’s charms,
Into the heavens I will take off and not have a bother;
The cloud is my sister; the wind is my brother.
Below the translation is a single sentence: "Abramek Koplowicz was murdered at
It is hard to believe that the heads of state and other dignitaries who tour this museum will not be affected by it.
The architecture of this building perhaps has a message as well. The building is the shape of an inverted “V” -- a prism -- with
The world is a narrow bridge. We progress through life in zigs and zags -- from side to side -- but perhaps with a direction and a destination. And as there were better yesterdays, there may be better tomorrows as well. Am Yisrael Chai.