On The Road to The Holy City
We will be spending 4 days in Jerusalem, but I feel I would need many more to fully experience this historic city. Today's journey took us through the newer part of Jerusalem and several significant museums. We began at the Herzl Museum and learned about the life of Theodor Herzl and the direct impact he had on the establishment of the State of Israel.
Herzl was born in 1860 in Budapest, but spent most of his life in Vienna. An Ashkenazi Jew, he was not very religious as a child. As a young man he had several early careers, from law to journalism. Several anti-Semitic events deeply affected Herzl and inspired him to write "The Jewish State," in 1896. The book expresses his beliefs that anti-Semitism could not be defeated, only avoided and the best way to do that would be with the establishment of a Jewish State. Herzl did not live to see his dream - he died in 1904, but he set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1949 his remains were moved from Vienna and reburied on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
The dialogue this museum provoked was nothing compared to what our next stop would bring.
Yad Vashem is the largest Holocaust history museum in the world. The exhibit is displayed in 10 rooms that tell the stories of Jewish European families before, during and after the atrocities of the Holocaust. Cameras are not allowed inside the museum. There are personal stories, from victims and survivors. There are thousands of personal items, including artwork and letters. I was brought to tears by a survivor recalling how all prisoners at the concentration camps over the age of 10 were forced to work - the Nazis had no use for young children and sadistically made the adults hand over their own children to be put to death, or suffer more killings. I wanted to hold my daughter and never let her go.
The exhibit honors non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Remember "Schindler's List?"
The final exhibit at the Holocaust History Museum is The Hall of names. It is "a place where the names of Holocaust victims are permanently preserved. The victims, most of whom never received a Jewish burial, commanded us to remember their names...Yad Vashem will continue to collect the names of all the victims, of each man, woman and child, an entire Jewish World that existed and was destroyed."
Our last museum stop is the Israel Museum - where thousands of years of ancient history come alive! When we first walked in we were amazed by the model of Ancient Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple. It is an overwhelming exhibit, laying out the ancient city before it was destroyed in 70 CE.
The other amazing exhibit at the Israel Museum is the Dead Sea Scrolls. Once again, cameras are not allowed inside, but to know you are looking at pieces of the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence (150 BCE to 70 CE) is something of a miracle.
On our way back to the hotel, we needed some levity - so, our wonderful tour guide, Arie, stopped at Shuk Mahane Yehuda. This is a very large, open-air market, selling fruit, pastries, cheese, fish, clothing, and much more. The thing is, today is Friday - Shabbat - and everything shuts down by sundown! These merchants need to sell everything NOW, and the buyers know it! Controled chaos at its best. We tour Old Jerusalem tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom.