Well, if I thought day three was emotional, day four didn’t disappoint.
This morning started with an incredibly somber visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum. Although it was my first time visiting the museum since it was redone, I was amazed and shocked to relearn what went on from 1936-1946. The level of evil that existed in the world at that time is incomprehensible. The suffering and desperation were palpable as we walked through the zig-zag of the museum.
During our tour, we saw a group of young soldiers taking their tour. The juxtaposition was amazing. The contrast between the vulnerability and frailty of the Jews in the holocaust and the strength of Israel and the army was so emotional for me to see. When you think about it, it’s a miracle that even after 6 million of us were wiped off this earth, the Jewish people still managed to build themselves a country and thrive against all the odds. It’s mind-boggling. As you walk through the museum from front to back, you notice that the Museum goes upward on an incline walking towards a bright light. It’s so symbolic of a people who suffered a tremendous, and inconceivable trauma yet overcame and flourished. A feeling of rebirth, of survival. What is scary to me is that antisemitism is on the rise. The world has not learned…
Next, we visited Har Herzl, where Herzl and many dignitaries, presidents, and soldiers are buried. So much bravery and patriotism buried in that cemetery. We sang Hatikvah and paid our respects to the men and women who fought and continue to fight for our freedom and our right to our homeland.
After a quick lunch, we toured old Jerusalem. We walked through the Jaffa gates a la Game of Thrones-style and were within the city walls. It’s beyond beautiful and historic — almost fairytale-like. We were then given a beautiful Siddur (prayer book) with a meaningful message written by Anat, our leader. Of course, this special moment came with tears- today was cry your eyes out day! We then took pictures on the rooftop of the Aish building. The view of the Kotel was unbelievable. The sun had already set, and the Western Wall was fully lit up and crowded with people. It’s insane to be surrounded by all that history – to see the walls of the second temple. We read history books and hear prayers that refer to the Jewish people’s’ exile from Israel and the perpetually yearning and goal to return to our homeland. And their dream and aspirations came to fruition. I am standing in Israel, in Jerusalem, where my ancestors were kicked out, and yet they made their way back. Israel and the Jewish people, a land and a people that were built up from nothing, from marshland and uninhabitable terrain to a vibrant, technologically advanced, multicultural, thriving haven for every and all Jews. It leaves you speechless when you try to comprehend the magnitude of this accomplishment.
Another surprising moment was when we heard the Muslim call to prayer. This was juxtaposed to the religious Jews praying and the visible lights of the churches. Cohabitation. Peace. Not the impression we get in the diaspora.
Finally, we went to the Wall to send our prayers and messages of hope. In particular, we thought about Ellie White, a little girl in our school who is battling cancer. Tears were shed again — such an emotionally draining day.
We ended our night with dinner at Mamila Mall and then a debriefing session on the rooftop of our hotel. What a view of Jerusalem!
We walked practically 25000 steps today. We are exhausted both physically and emotionally. I feel like a broken person- achy all over. Today I bartered compression stockings for Lax-a-day (Miralax). What is going on ???
Tomorrow is Shabbat, and I am excited to see how it is celebrated in Jerusalem.
I’ll keep you posted!
Dr. Leslie Solomon
Montreal, QC, Canada