On Friday, April 19th the emotional roller coaster continued with a trip to Yad Vashem – Israel’s Holocaust museum – with Alli’s parents. Of course I had learned about the holocaust in school and I had even visited Yad Vashem before as a 14 year old, but coming as an adult was a different experience. I don’t remember much of that first visit, but I doubt I’ll forget this one. What made it so amazing is that the museum purposely funnels you through the exhibits in a prescribed order so that each one would build on the previous one, telling a complex, multi-dimensional story of the Holocaust. They did a great job capturing not just the scope and magnitude of what occurred but also the stages in which it occurred and the smaller, personal dramas that made up the whole. One of the most powerful elements was the inclusion of videotaped interviews from survivors. There were times when the horror of all that happened overwhelmed me and I had to skip a room or two before I was calm enough to return to looking at the exihibits. I can’t do it justice, so all I can say is that if you’re in Israel, visit Yad Vashem at some point. It’s so much different than learning about the Holocaust in history class or by watching a movie or a play.
When we walked out, we were all silent. I had three urges. The first was that I wanted to give Alli a big hug. The second was the desire to do whatever I could to help ensure the continued vitality of Jewish life and Jewish peolehood. The third was the determination to respond to and try to correct future injustice wherever it may be found. Everyone reacts differently to these things, but this was how I felt.
Following Yad Vashem, Alli’s parents and I went to Mahane Yehuda or “the Shuk.” This is an open air market where people sell fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, nuts, fish, meat, etc. There are some restaurants and other stores there too. Following Yad Vashem, this was a very uplifting activity as Friday midday is probably one of the busiest times to go to the shuk since so many people are preparing for shabbat. Well, we joined right in a bought some dried dates and some bread for shabbat. This was a lot of fun and I’d like to go back with Alli to explore on a day when it’s not so busy and we could walk more freely.
One of the best parts of this week was sharing our lives with Alli’s parents. They came to our shul in West Hartford a couple times and we had stayed at their house for Shabbat and holidays several times, but this was the first time that they stayed with us for all of Shabbat. We got to introduce them to the friends we had made and they got to see how we operate as a couple in our home. I also got a chance to walk with Alli’s dad to the old city for one last visit to the kotel. We caught an early mincha (afternoon service) in nusach sephard (i.e., it followed the sephardi traditions). Even though we’re ashkenaz I was hoping that this would happen so that Jeff (Alli’s dad) could see the sephardi Torah scrolls. What’s difference? About 20 – 40 pounds. No, it’s not longer – it has the same exact words, but the parchment is encased in a decorated round case (for lack of a better word) that can (depending on the material) weigh up to 50 to 60 pounds without the scroll. After that, we went for a walk in the Christian quarter of the old city before returning home. My one comment about the Christian quarter was that I was confused at first because I expected to see Christians like American Christians. The residents of this quarter, however, seemed to be predominantly Arab. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it just shows how I mistakenly took my impressions from the US population and automatically assumed that they were representative of Christians everywhere – whoops.
For obvious reasons, we didn’t take any pictures of Yad Vashem nor the old city on Shabbat, but here are some pictures of the shuk that Alli’s dad took.