Returning to the sunshine, one is aware of the well-manicured lawns and spectacular view of the Judean Hills fighting for our attention with the macabre subject matter of the many outdoor bronze and stone sculptures scattered throughout – emaciated Jews led to their death, a wailing male figure covered in tallit and tefillin and a mother holding her dead child.

There is so much new about Yad Vashem – including a museum of Holocaust art that deserves its own write-up – that it is comforting to see that the original structures are still there as well: the Walk of the Righteous Gentile, ever more lush with trees testifying to those who saved Jewish lives when it would have been so easy to look away; the huge bronze, beaux-arts relief of Survivors; and memorials to the deportees, the resistance, the children and the Hall of Remembrance.


The hall, which once was the highlight of Yad Vashem both architecturally and emotionally, is composed of a wide marked-off area with an eternal flame to those who perished in the concentration camps. The names of these death camps are inscribed in the floor. Sunlight peeks in at the junction of wall and ceiling, as if the latter is being raised due to the power of prayer. After having your senses bombarded with information by the technologically up-to-date exhibitions, the hall is a fitting place for silence and contemplation.

How in the world could anyone have survived this? If the shooting, gassing or hanging didn’t kill you, surely witnessing the degradation of others would have. How could anyone have stayed sane? And that’s when you realize the significance of what you have been slowly absorbing – ironic and uplifting all at once. A Holocaust museum – big or small, shabby or grand, architecturally significant or structurally nondescript – is a monument not to death, but to faith, perseverance and testimony. The message is simple. I am a Jew, and I am alive.


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