Friday came as one of the most anticipated days of the trip. For weeks we have been learning about the history of Israel and the history of the Jewish people. The Holocaust was a horrible, yet crucial piece of Jewish history and an imperative step towards gaining our homeland. Our trip to Yad Vashem started off on a somber note; breakfast was a quiet affair, and there was none of the usual singing on the morning bus ride. We were nervous, but at the same time eager to absorb this information, to learn more about the atrocities and the horrors, but also about the stories, the names and the people behind them.
When we first got to Yad Vashem, we were ushered into the triangular shaped building. The museum is shaped like a triangle because they are the strongest shape, and it is a symbol that our people will never again be beaten down like they were during those dark times. We watched a movie of happier times in Europe during the war. Our guide reminded us to not remember these people as simply a statistic, but as people with names and lives and personalities and friends and families, who loved and laughed and whose lives were ended too soon.
The next two hours were spent walking through the zig-zagging maze of the museum, from the 1930s and Hitler's initial rise to power in Germany to liberation in 1945. Learning the facts was only a part of the experience; it was learning the names, faces and the stories that was truly moving. Coming out of the museum building, there was only stunned silence.
After sitting outside for 15 minutes, the group walked to one of the 60 memorials in Yad Vashem: the Children's Memorial. It is dedicated to the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. The memorial itself is a twisting hallway that is surrounded by mirrors. Within the mirrors there are hundreds of candles that are reflected to give the illusion of millions. Names and ages of the children echo through the halls. It was chilling and extremely powerful. I only wish that we could have had more time there.
After leaving Yad Vashem, we headed to a market in Jerusalem to look around and buy food for our Friday night oneg. In the late afternoon we went back to the Kotel for the second time. It was a beautiful way to end our day, and a reminder that no matter how much tragedy we have endured, the Jewish people will stay strong and steadfast, just like the ancient stones of the Kotel.