“Entering a Place One Way & Exiting It Another”: Day Eight, April 1, 2012
“Entering a place one way and exiting it another.” We have come to realize that everywhere we go on this trip we find ourselves entering places we have never seen before, but may have preconceived notions and feelings about, and leave them changed forever. Today, especially, was a day of entering and exiting; we seemed to be constantly going into places which told stories about the Holy City of Jerusalem, stories that challenged our senses, but even more challenged our emotions.
As the day unfolded, echoes from our meeting with Brother Olivier resonated over and over. His challenge to all of us about what happens when politics are put aside and people just talk and work together seemed to fit our day perfectly.
We started with the “Walk of Remembrance” outside of Yad Vashem. Military graves of generals and privates lay side by side, each adorned with sweet persimmon growing. Yitzak Rabin lies in state, as does Golda Meir. “The house that wasn’t built” honored those who survived the Holocaust only to die in Israel before passing on their family name. We shared the path with military personnel , preparing for the Day of Remembrance and Independence Day Celebrations later on this month. Leaving the path, we entered the grounds of Yad Vashem and found ourselves in the Garden of the Righteous”. Carob trees represent the hundreds of gentiles who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. It’s a place of hope and a place to celebrate the power of one to make a difference in the world.
Leaving the peace of the trees we entered the Yad Vashem Museum, the focus of the morning. Entering, the mood shifted as we witnessed graphic stories, pictures and artifacts of Vashem the horror of the Holocaust. No one left untouched. As we left the physical building of the museum and over- looked the state of Israel Jane commented, “At all other museums we exit into bookstores or gift shops, but at Yad Vashem we exit to what matters.”
Still processing the museum, we experienced one of the most powerful entrance/exit experiences of our entire trip, the Yad Vashem Children’s Memorial. Entering the memorial Wendy gently touches the cheek of Uziel, a likeness of a child of the Holocaust. As we enter the memorial, we walk in darkness, holding onto the railings to find our way. The names begin to reverberate through the darkness, and the 1.5 million child victims are honored. Small points of light appear in the darkness. We are left speechless.
Our day of entrances and exits concludes with a trip into the old city. We enter through the Jewish and Arab Quarters of the city on our way to the Wailing Wall. We are all struck by the cacophony and complexity of this Holy City and its people. At the Herodian Museum we walk underground to discover an underground city, and we are struck by the idea of civilizations building upon one century after another century. Each of us experienced the Wailing Wall in very contemplative and unique ways, but as we tucked our prayer requests into this ancient wall, and we backed away slowly and silently, we reflected on what it meant to be in Israel with this group of people, at this point in time. We left Jerusalem through the Arab Quarter with an entirely new perspective of the past and the present.
Tom Seib & Diane Williams