Yesterday was cold, rainy and windy. The weather reflected the mood of the day’s visits.
Our first two hours were spent at Yad V’Shem – The Holocaust Memorial Museum. The visit was particularly poignant because Essie Freilich, one of our congregants on our trips, is a Holocaust survivor; Howard Stern’s father, Harry, is a survivor; and Dan Rakos, another participant, knew that his grandmother was a survivor.
Each one of us entered the museum with our own personal feelings, connections, senses of loss and longing, worries about the future, hopes and dreams.
We each wound our own way in and out of the exhibitions, reading, listening, reflecting. Many of us shed tears along the way, or in the ‘Hall of Names’ at the end, as we entered the doorway marked ‘Yizkor – Remember.’
The exhibit hall ends with a symbol of hope: an opening like a bow of a ship, overlooking the hills of Jerusalem. We breathed in the Jerusalem air.
Before we left the museum site, we gathered our group to recite Kaddish: For life cut short and vision unrealized: we remember. Yitgadal, v’yitkadash shmei rabbah….
But we could not yet dry our tears.
Our next stop was Mt Herzl, Har Herzl, with Professor David Mendelsonn from Hebrew Union College.
He spoke to us about the importance of the mountain as a reflection of the values and morals of the civil religion of Israel as a society.
We learned, through his eyes, that Har Herzl was more than simply a national cemetery. It is a statement of all that is important to Israel over time.
We visited the graves of Herzl, Rabin, Peres, Hannah Senesh and young soldiers who died protecting the Jewish homeland.
We learned how the waves of immigrants coming to Israel marked their important values here with their monuments: Moroccan Jewry, Soviet Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry.
And the rain – God’s tears- continued to fall.
Remember the fallen of the State of Israel, our brothers and sisters, the victims of terror, may the darkness of their loss not obscure the light of peace. …Yitbarach v’yistabach v’yitpa’er…
The wind blew, the rain fell down in torrents and we were chilled to the bone.
Our morning left us in physical and emotional discomfort. We could easily change our clothes, dry our hair, sip hot tea.
But it is important to live with that emotional discomfort. To remember that ‘never again’ means we need to fight for human rights wherever people are suffering at the hands of another.
To pray for peace means doing something physical to turn words into reality, so we do not see more and more graves for 19 and 20 and 30-year olds who died defending their country.
Our day ended with a visit to the Western Wall and the tunnels underneath. My prayers included a prayer for peace: “Let nation not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
We are in Jerusalem- Iyr Shel Shalom – City of Peace. May peace descend on Jerusalem, on Israel and all the world, soon.