Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yad Vashem

Several years ago, they opened a Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Time had never permitted me to visit until today. We went early this morning, parked in a proper makeshift parking spot in the underground garage, and ventured through several seas of tour groups in chinese, spanish and english. The main portion of the building itself is concrete and tent shaped. Inside is dark, with endless multimedia--you are bombarded and surrounded by images from the time you set foot in the door.

For me, the beginning felt extremely claustrophobic and antsy. I nearly ran through the first few rooms, trying to make space (perhaps symbolically as well as physically) to absorb the powerful information. I wondered, to myself and aloud to anyone who would listen, whether this was part of the planning---to create a disconcerting trapped feeling, pushing you out of your comfort zone and into the history of a people who were completely annihilated. The statistics were gruesome, as were the pictures. At every turn, there were stories of each family with heirlooms, stories of the resistance, stories of fighting against fate. My soul began to ache about half way through as we walked past a glass covered area of the floor beneath which were thousands of shoes from those who had been taken to the gas chambers. A guide nearby said the glass had been put down to allow people to peer at all the shoes, but now people walked around the glass like it was sacred. Passports, suitcases, pictures and stories lined the walls. Tears flowed from visitors I slunk past. My heart continuously broke at the thought of the hatred that it takes to commit such atrocities and the ability for that kind of hate to continue to exist throughout the world today.

At the end, there is a room--wherein are books upon books of the names of all the dead. It is a room full of light in comparison with the rest of the exhibit-and it left me feeling as through the volumes were heaven's great list.

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