Sunday, February 1, 2009

Israel Day Eleven!

Today, we got up early to try to get to some of the sites here in Jerusalem that we didn’t see last week. Yad Vashem was our first stop. This is the Holocaust museum, where they have gathered an amazing amount of memorabilia, and bits of history from the survivors and families of the Holocaust. The museum didn’t allow cameras to be brought in, so I tried to copy and paste some pictures from the internet. It was amazing to sit and listen to the stories, and the history of these people. It was actually very emotional for me. I kept trying to hold tears in, as I listened to stories, and saw pictures of the horrors that were committed by the Nazis during this war. Not only did they commit these atrocities, but they had the audacity to film them and photograph them, and it was amazing to me the look on the soldiers faces as they brutalized these people. They looked proud, and defiant, and sometimes just plain gleeful as they murdered and terrorized the Jewish people. It’s hard to understand how 6,000,000—six MILLION Jews—men, women and children, were killed, and so many governments, even religious groups could look the other way. I just don’t think people wanted to face what was happening. It was terrible. One of my favorite places was the Children’s Memorial where you walk into a dark room, with candles burning, and mirrors all around so that the number of candles seems endless. They have a recording with the names of the children who were killed, their ages, and where they were from. I counted the names during the time it took us to walk through the memorial, and in that 5 minutes or so, there were 13 names said. That is 13 out of the 1,500,000 children who were killed—can you imagine how long you would have to stay in that room to actually hear ALL of the names of those children who were killed? The magnitude of that number is amazing when you think of your children, and the heartache you would feel were you to lose even one child. These were PEOPLE! Each one had a mother, a father, a family who loved them. When you think of each person, individually, that is when you can begin to grasp the horror of what happened during the Holocaust, just because of the things that they believed in, just because of their religion. I think that as Mormons, we have a special connection, and a special understanding of this type of persecution. Many of us have ancestors that were persecuted, or even killed because of our religion. Our experience was miniscule when compared to that of the Jews, but we need to make sure that we are teaching our children about this history so that it is never repeated. All of us bear a responsibility to make sure that the world does not forget what happened, and so that we don’t look the other way when atrocities are committed against other people. This quote sums up the day:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a communist;Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a socialist;Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a unionist;Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a Jew;Then they came for me-- and there was no one left to speak out for me.We went over to a Jewish shopping area called the Shuke, where we walked around looking at all of the Jewish foods and shops. It was a really neat place, and we hit a great candy shop where we picked up some of our favorite candies, chocolate almonds. We also hit this great schwarma place, on Ben Yahuda street that was just packed with people. There was hardly room enough to eat there were so many people. It was for good reason—the food was awesome! Next, we headed over to the Old City to go to the Kotel Tunnel, which is an ancient tunnel dug out under the city. This tunnel takes you down to where the Western wall was 2,000 years ago, when Christ was here. You can actually see the wall that King Herod built, you can tell because of his building style. Each stone was beveled, and no mortar was used, they were set one stone exactly on top of the other. We also got to see a huge 600 ton stone in the middle of the wall, about 30-40 feet off the ground that they managed to get into place somehow. The tour guide said she didn’t think it was a miracle, there must be an explanation—but after seeing Caesarea, I think that much of what King Herod built is a miracle! I don’t know how he built such magnificent structures with the primitive tools that they had back then. It’s just amazing! We got to see the original wall, stand on the original street, and see some original Herodian structures, including this column, and stairway. Today, we truly walked where Jesus walked! Awesome!We also got to see a place where the wall is the closest to where the Holy of Holies was in the Herodian Temple, and also Solomon’s Temple. There are prayers in the wall here as well, and chairs set up so that Jews can come and pray here. There is constant archaeology going on at this site, and they are constantly finding out new things about this place. So much history here! We were watching the Jews who come to pray at the Western Wall, and I was able to bring my camera this time because it wasn't their sabbath, so I was able to get some amazing pictures and video of this. It is fascinating to me to see the way they pray and worship. They bring their Torah, and read at the wall, and rock back and forth, like they are in a trance or something. We were even able to get into the women’s area where they can watch the men pray. It is just really cool to see the different types of Jews, and their customs and the different ways that they worship at the wall. I will post the video, but here are some of the great pictures of people worshiping at the wall. I especially love the one of this soldier—I saw him as he came off the wall, and his eyes were all swollen from crying. It was really neat. BTW, don’t Bob and Todd look cute in their keepas? The men have to put one on before they are allowed to go down to the wall. Love it! To top off a wonderful day, we got back to our car, and wouldn’t you know it—a parking ticket! UUGH! It’s hard to find parking in this city!

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