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Friday: A Day of Contrasts

Trip participant Bruce Sallan writes:
A day of juxtaposition. The morning at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum; the afternoon at the pre-Shabbat chaos of Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s famous open-air market. We walked through the new Yad Vashem museum, opened approximately 18 months ago, along with swarms of others, mostly youth groups on birth-right trips. We got the feel, but only a fraction of the immense details. Exhibits of artifacts, photographs, testimonials of survivors, and numerous documentaries – far too much to absorb in our short 75-minutes there. The last room houses the names of the victims, 3 million that have been identified so far…all carefully placed in identical books along the circular shelves that surround this room. In the center of this stark room, with half the shelves filled with names, awaiting the inclusion of the other half of unidentified victims of the Holocaust, is a deep stone pit…at least 20+ feet…at the bottom of which lies a pool of water. On leaving this long, narrow, triangular edifice, you emerge to walls that literally part to give a vista view of the Jerusalem countryside. We then saw the Children’s Memorial, a stark, dark mirrored room illuminated by five candles and their incalculable reflected images. In the dark, you move along holding onto the handrail, gazing at the infinite reflected images while hearing a recitation of names of individual children, theirs ages (at death) and their place of birth. Finally, after seeing the original Yad Vashem memorial, with its Eternal Flame in the center of a dark floor with the names of the various camps, we visited the outdoor memorial to all the decimated communities ravaged by The Shoah (Holocaust). It is a maze of very tall huge stones, interspersed with the names of all communities irreparably damaged or completely destroyed. At one point, the sun peaked through the moving clouds as I gazed up at yet another list of communities on the stone walls reaching towards the sky. Quite moving. This last stop became the site of our own memorial service in honor of our visit to Yad Vashem. All we saw was beautiful, except for the content they reflected. In contrast, the Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s famed outdoor market, was a cacophony of shouting and pushing, shoving, almost frantic shoppers. Both our Mishpacha Coordinator Rachel and our guide, Alexandra, insisted that a particular bakery, Marzipan, had the most incredible, mouth-watering, delicious, sinfully rich chocolate rugelach. They neglected to inform us of the Herculean effort required to get to the front of the line to actually get some! We ate falafels, other pastries, shwarmas, all dripping with juices and flavors, enriched by the atmosphere of this infamous market. After a while, I had to let go of my need and desire for a more orderly, comfortable environment and just marvel at the miracle that the Holocaust begat…Israel in its wonder and extra-ordinary diversity. Its existence, its continued survival in the midst of countries dedicated to its destruction, its sheer chutzpah…not to mention its amazing chocolate rugelach!

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