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Israel Journal: Day Seven


Taking some time to reflect at Yad Vashem

Thursday, June 19, 2008

today was a day of intense meaning and intense fun. All but the little kids started their day at Yad Vashem, the Israeli National Memorial and Museum for the Holocaust. Zvi introduced the site by talking about the shift that Israeli society has gone through. At first, Israelis never talked about the victims, only those who fought in the resistance. Today, society recognizes that all victims of the Holocaust need to be honored and remembered as martyrs of the Jewish people.

He then led us on a guided tour of the museum. He not only explained the various exhibits, but he also described how the impressive architecture of the place enhances the message of the museum. The message is a very Israeli one. It says that in Europe we were stateless and effectively powerless. The modern state of Israel is a response to the Holocaust: We now have a sovereign state, an army and the power we need to ensure that a Holocaust never again will happen to the Jewish people.

After the main museum, we visited the very moving Children’s Memorial, where mirrors make five candles look like millions. In the background you can hear being read the names and ages of children who were killed.

Before meeting back up with the little kids, who had been at the zoo, Rabbi Howie and Rabbi Jen led a short but meaningful memorial service for the 6 million Jews who were killed. Rabbi Howie shared the story of his grandfather’s experience in the Holocaust. He also told us what his grandfather taught: that it is our responsibility to live life for those who couldn’t. The Israeli response is one of Jewish sovereignty and power. As American Jews, we can respond by living full Jewish lives — seeking out the meaning, the life and the hopes of our tradition and passing them on to our children.

We then made the transition from memorial to joy as we met for lunch with the next generation, the little kids.

After lunch we headed to the archaeological site at Bet Guvrin National Park, where we actually assisted in an active archaeological dig. We had a wonderful guide who introduced us to the area and explained that we would be digging at Tel Maresha, which last had been a city at the time of the Maccabees. We then descended into a cave, where we were handed pickaxes and trowels, and we started to dig. EVERYONE in the group found shards of pottery, and some found more substantial pieces of ancient plates, bowls and storage containers...items that had not been touched by people for more than 2,000 years!

Following the dig, some members of our group took a tour of several completely excavated caves that are lit by electric lights and display some big finds, including an olive press. The more adventurous of us and all of the kids went to explore caves that were lit only by candles. That group had a lot of fun crawling on their stomachs through tiny holes, into the different caverns. Josh DeLott, our resident 6-foot, 8-inch Jew, got a big cheer from the kids when he made it through the smallest of the holes.

We listened to a brief talk about what the archaeologists will do with the pieces we found, and we then were invited to take a few pieces of pottery shards with us as souvenirs.

The evening was free, and people used the time to enjoy all that Jerusalem has to offer.




Back to Israel Journal (2008)


Click on the thumbnails below to view
larger versions of the photos and a slideshow.


Zvi prepares us for our visit to Yad Vashem.
Zvi prepares us for our visit to Yad Vashem.
The Rabbis Goldsmith (with the beautiful Israeli landscape in the background).
The Rabbis Goldsmith (with the beautiful Israeli landscape in the background).
Do not enter...unless you're part of the Emanu-El groups!
Do not enter...unless you're part of the Emanu-El groups!
Walking past the scary sign and excited to dig!
Walking past the scary sign and excited to dig!
Our archaeologist gets some help explaining the different layers present at this site.
Our archaeologist gets some help explaining the different layers present at this site.
Descending into our dig site.
Descending into our dig site.
Archaeology is fun!
Archaeology is fun!
How much fun is it to play with a pickaxe and a spade!
How much fun is it to play with a pickaxe and a spade!
Judy proudly shows off her finds.
Judy proudly shows off her finds.
Is that a rock or a big piece of pottery?
Is that a rock or a big piece of pottery?
This is just like the sandbox...only bigger and underground.
This is just like the sandbox...only bigger and underground.
This is our staff???
This is our staff???
G.G. ascends back into the light.
G.G. ascends back into the light.
We sift the dirt to see if we missed any pottery.
We sift the dirt to see if we missed any pottery.
Just rocks in this bucket of dirt...
Just rocks in this bucket of dirt...
Max helps out with the sifting and sorting.
Max helps out with the sifting and sorting.
Lucy and Ben enjoy themselves underground.
Lucy and Ben enjoy themselves underground.
Everyone gets to take home some pottery!
Everyone gets to take home some pottery!
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