Our day begins with a lecture by Rabbi Ken Spiro about "Why the Jews?" Fascinating talk where he takes the most common reasons given why people hate the Jews (economics, deicide, the outsider, etc) and pokes holes in the theories (if people hate outsiders, then assimilation should fix the problem, when it actually makes it worse). He goes on to explain that the real reason people hate the Jews is that we are committed to repairing the world, to elevating it and making it a better place, and they want to return the world to the ancient pagan values (power above all, etc). Basically, we stand in their way and so their plan is to rub us out. The solution is not to assimilate, but to stand even stronger. If you look at the list of peoples that have tried in the past to annhiliate us, the list is long (Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, Nazis, etc) but they are all gone from the face of the earth. We, however, are still here.
From there we went on to Yad Vashem. I have not been there since 1987. They completed a renovation about 3 years ago. I was really interested to see it.
I am glad I brought a package of tissues.
Our bus got the tour guided by Esti Hershkowitz. She has been the guide for the other bus this entire time, while we have been blessed with rabbi Ken Spiro. This man is a font of knowledge, and as a guide to Masada and other historical sites he has been unbelievable. I have to say though, I am really glad we had Esti for this experience. She has this way of creating a mood. When we pulled up to the Old City on Friday late morning, her advice was, "Take a moment. Stop. Look around. Breathe in the smells, listen to the sounds. This is how Jerusalem prepares for Shabbat." That was one of the best pieces of advice I heard this entire time. It had nothing to do with the concreteness of the details of the history or the buildings. It was the mood, the emotion that made all the difference.
That's the way I feel about Yad Vashem. It has very little to do with cold hard facts. We know 6 million Jews died. We know the names of all the camps. We know the date of the Kristallnacht. That's not Yad Vashem. It's family photos, it's smuggled drawings, it's the cutoff pigtails of the little girl whose mother thought she had a better chance of surviving as a little boy. So many stories. Esti was wonderful because she picked and chose the ones to create the moods she wanted. I think it would have taken me three days to go through every single piece. I wonder what it's going to be like when I go with Patrick. Will he want to move fast or slow? Will I remember any of the stories Esti told? Will I do it justice?
The rest of the group had classes this afternoon, but I spent my afternoon in the emergency room at Terem (a stand-alone ER in Jerusalem) with two separate "patients." I won't go into the specifics of who or what, but I was privileged to see the fruits of the labors of Dr. David Applebaum. If you don't know his story, you should Google him.
I'll blog later about dinner, but I wanted to mention one thing. A couple of people at dinner mentioned that there were people actually reading this blog! Other than my friend, Class-Factotum and my husband, I don't believe it. If that's true, please let me know by posting a comment. You can do it anonymously if you like, but I have a bet going that the people who told me that were mistaken. Help me prove them wrong.