Sunday, February 10, 2013
Israel 2013 - "Not Quite Alive, Yet Not Quite Dead"
- Holocaust survivor
Israel is a country in need of peace and the Jewish people are too. Today, we opened a chapter of world history in which peace was absent and tragedies seemed unending. World War II. One staggering reality was before us today...
Six million dead.
Our minds can hardly fathom the injustice, brutality, dehumanizing, and shocking acts of one group of people against another. Six million dead. Their crime was being a Jew or helping Jews. Six million dead.
Today we went to the holocaust museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem ("Museum of Names"). It is a unique museum in arrangement, story telling, and architecture. You physically descend a center hallway with side rooms along the way (no photos allowed inside; photo above is from internet). The museum slopes down to the depths of the worst atrocities imaginable against the Jewish people. The side rooms tell the story of the build up to the abuse, overpowering, and then mass murder of the Jews in Europe during World War II. We were there with a large group of Israeli Air Force soldiers who were remembering this part of their Jewish story. By the time you got to the bottom, you felt with Isabelle Leitner, quoted above, that the Jews who were living were "Not quite alive, yet not quite dead."
The museum did not leave you there, however. Hope is always in the heart. Our tour guide, Ezra, who is a Jewish man and retired soldier who fought in the 1967 Six-Day War in Israel, said, "Without hope, there is nothing." We all need hope. The Jewish people needed hope in their darkest hour. We need hope in our darkest hour. The museum itself signified the hope by physically sloping up toward the end and the rooms documented the liberation of the concentration camps and the steps taken to return them to life after the war.
It is a fair question to ask why Christians visiting the Holy Land would go to Yad Vashem. My notes at the end best answer that question. I wrote, "The unthinkable happened that led to the systematic extermination of six million human beings. We cannot turn our heads and ignore this dark chapter of human history. We cannot because such dark chapters are still being written. Until we learn to stand with fierce determination against all injustices, we are certain to repeat them and when they are repeated we will have blood on our hands."
We went to Yad Vashem last in our day of touring, but we began with the groups first trip into the Old City of Jerusalem. We went through the Jaffa Gate and made our way to the Redeemer Lutheran Church, an English-speaking congregation. After church in what felt like a refrigerator - all were cold, not just me - we walked the market and most did a little shopping. I met my vendor from last year, Joseph, and made sport of haggling with him again. I'm sure I paid too much, but the experience was fun.
We then went to Israel's version of the Smithsonian called the Israeli Museum. There we saw a large scale (1:50 ratio) model of the first century version of Jerusalem and the Temple. It is a useful part of our trip because we can't see the city whole like this when in the modern-day version of it. Next, we went to see the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at a place in the Israeli Museum called The Shrine of the Book. Impressive. We'll go to where all was discovered tomorrow. Two versions of biblical books like Isaiah written by two different scribes in two different locations at two very different time periods starts to, as Ezra said, "remove question marks" about authenticity and reliability of the archaeological evidence for the Scriptures.
From the Israeli Museum we went to remember a time when people were "not quite alive, yet not quite dead." An interesting observation was when we went into the museum the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the weather reasonably warm. We we exited the museum an hour and a half later, the sky was gray, a foggy-haze had settled in, and it was cold. The weather fit our moods exiting the place.
Tonight is a free night. I suspect all will go to bed early. I know I will.