ISRAEL, PART SIX: THE WAILING WALL AND YAD VASHEM – A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

In 1959 the Israeli government passed a law making the 27th day of Nisan in the Jewish Calendar (April/May) “Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah” or Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.  This national memorial day commemorates the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and for the Jewish resistance that fought the Nazis. This year the day fell on May 3, the day our group was to visit the Wailing Wall and Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center).

At 10:00AM on May 3,  an air raid siren sounded throughout Israel and in observance of  two minutes  of solemn reflection, everyone  around us stopped in their tracks,  including motorists who stopped their cars while the siren blared.

No matter your background, this is a very emotional moment – to see and feel an entire country stop in total silence, except for birds singing, for two full minutes.  Being of the Jewish faith, it held special import for me.

After the siren we made our way to the Western, or Wailing Wall.  This is the holiest place to pray in Judaism – as mentioned in my last post, it is the closest area to where it is believed the Holy of Holies resided in the First Temple.  It is called the Wailing Wall as many who come to pray are overcome with sorrow praying for those departed from this earth. While it holds premiere importance to those of the Jewish Faith, anyone can approach the wall.  Some write prayers on small pieces of paper and insert the notes into crevices in the wall.  These notes are collected at intervals and are buried in a Jewish Cemetery.

To approach the wall, men and women are directed to separate areas:

You can imagine the charged atmosphere following the moment of silence but I was still unprepared for what followed.  Upon reaching the wall, I placed my hand on it, thinking to commune with my own thoughts, when I was hit with a wave of emotion so powerful that I had to kneel on the ground and the next thing I was sobbing uncontrollably.  Fortunately a few of my fellow female travelers were nearby and were simply wonderful in getting me to a seat and  providing comfort until I could regain control.

We continued  on to Yad Vashem and I knew beforehand that this would be a difficult experience as it weaves a visual trail of the beginning of Jewish persecution starting in pre -biblical times to the final release from concentration camp incarceration, but not necessarily freedom.  The pictures from the concentration camps of the men, women and children who were tortured, starved and killed, as well as many video testimonies from survivors tore me up.  Many of our group regardless of religious  background were overcome as they heard taped testimonials from survivors.
There were healing moments too – hearing about the righteous ones from all denominations who fought back against the Nazis and helped hundreds of thousands of Jews escape.
Perhaps that is what this is all about – bringing diverse peoples together in solace and unity- we are all part of the same universe.
I obviously did not take photos inside Yad Vashem but I want to share one from the internet of the Children’s Memorial which is part of the Yad Vashem  complex.  Hollowed out from an underground cavern, this memorial  is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust. Memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely, creating the impression of millions of stars shining in the heavens. We walked carefully along the winding passageway in complete darkness, other than the candles’ reflections all around us, while  the names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin were softly played in the background. It was a powerful image and a moment that will be forever in my soul.

#NEVER AGAIN