Like the title of the day provided in our itinerary suggested, day nine was a unique blend of remembering some of the most horrific events in human history while also experiencing all the life and vitality of modern day Jerusalem. The day began meeting with holocaust survivor Hannah Pick, who was a childhood friend of Anne Frank’s. Pick’s personal story of the Holocaust was tragic and heart wrenching, as she lost a childhood friend and her parents to the Nazis. But Pick’s outlook was also inspirational. She was not resentful or angry, but matter of fact about the things that happened to her. And we were honored that she shared her story with us. Many of us were moved to tears by her testimonial.
That got is prepared for going to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. To say I enjoyed Yad Vashem would obviously not be apt, but it was an incredibly well-done museum that raised strong emotions from everyone in the group. We all felt terror, anger, and shock walking through the halls and watching the story develop chronologically, from the very beginnings of Nazi Germany to the unimaginable atrocities of the Holocaust. There were many extremely powerful exhibits: an entire collection of small shoes that would have belonged to children, shelves filled with hundreds of thick books, listing all the names of the victims. There was also the Children’s memorial, which was one candle in a room of mirrors that gave a sense of the infinite loss that the Holocaust was for our people.
It was difficult to move on with our day after such the harrowing first few hours. The trip tp the Machaneh Yehuda market right before Shabbat was probably the best place to go, because it was full of life and noise which helped lift most of us out of our funk. At times it was a bit too crowded, as a few group members got lost during our time there, but we all made it out okay in time for Shabbat services that night.
We went to services at Kehitllay Yozma, a reform sister congregation of Mt. Zion. Led by Rabbi Kinneret Shirion, their service was similar to Mt. Zion’s, but of course all in Hebrew. After services we got to experience home hospitality for the second time on the trip, going to the homes of congregants. My family was paired with the Hadarys, who had twins that were my age, along with a 12 year-old who impressed my mom with his piano playing. While our last home hospitality experience was a bit awkward at times, we hit it off with the Hadarys pretty quickly and talked a lot about Israel and how it compares to America.
Our two home hospitality experiences are one of the things we’ll remember most from the trip, as we got to, at least for a night, get a sense of what it is like to be a family in Israel.