January 2: Yad Vashem

The hotel was within walking distance to the World Holocaust Remembrance Center – Yad Vashem. Entering the memorial grounds, there were thousands of trees with name tags. These named trees commemorated the Non-Jews who risked their lives to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. At the center of the plaza was a concrete triangular prism of a building that over hanged a cliff. We walked along a concrete glass bridge to the center of the pyramid.

The architecture of the museum was very well put designed – although the space seemed small from outside of the prism-shaped building, the interior expanded as the building dug into he underground of the cliff it hung from.  As we walked through the exhibits and through time chronologically, the hallways became more and more narrow – as the population of the Jews were becoming more and more less. The tour guide for this museum was very good at telling the story about who the Jewish people were before, during, and after the holocaust events.

One picture stood out to me greatly – a photograph of a line in Germany of Jews trying to get a visa to leave the country, and sad looks on everyone’s faces as they realize not everyone can get a visa to escape the growing Reich regime.  The picture stood out to me though because my grandfather and his family escaped Germany in similar fashion . It felt like I was looking at a photograph of my family.

Seeing the metal sign posts for the Death Camps was very eerie. According to the tour guide, everything at Yad Vashem is authentic except for one piece – the sign that stood in front of Auschwitz. The sign read “Arbeit Macht Frei”, which means “Work Sets You Free”.  The sign that was hanging at Auschwitz now is also a replica, as it was actually stolen back in 2009.

The Hall of Names was incredibly disorienting collection of data. Looking up was a large dome with hundreds of illuminated photographs of Holocaust victims. Looking around were large archives of books and folders that were several stories tall. Looking Down was a large hole in the earth leading to a deep abysmal cave.

The Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem was incredible use of mirrors and a candle light. I wish I had spent more time in this infinity mirrored room to study the architecture, but we were at the end of our tour and left the museum shortly after. Rest in Peace 1.5 million children.

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After the visit to the museum, the tour bus was back on its way to Tel Aviv. It was a very enlightening experience yet very sad as I reflected on the Holocaust. It opened my eyes more to how Israel as a State was formed  – those Jews who survived the Holocaust had lost everything, and could not go back home, because there was no more home to go back to. Israel was the solution for these lost people.

 To lighten the mood for everybody, some of us starting singing. A good portion of my trip through Queens, NY I was listening to Cyndi Lauper, so I got up to front of bus and sang Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

We revisited the street we were at yesterday that had the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, but instead went into a very historic building – Independence Hall. The guided tour of this building showed photographs of this building being created – the very first building constructed in Tel Aviv back when it was still a desert. The room we were in still had remains of the original limestone brick of the first house that had now been transformed over the years into a living museum. This building became the first art gallery of Tel Aviv, and the artwork on the walls were reproductions of the first art exhibition held in Tel Aviv.

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Of course, the importance of Independence Hall isn’t because it was the first building of the modern Israel city, but because it was where Israel as a state was born in 1948. We entered the next room which was much larger hallway that appeared like a courthouse with long table in the center. Above the long table was large portrait of Theodore Hertzle, the founder of Zionism and the modern idea of a Jewish State. Flanked on both sides of the portrait were long vertical Israel flags. It was in this room on that one day in May 1948 that David Ben Gorion declared the State of Israel as a land for the Jewish People.

By the time we left the Independence Hall it had been pouring rain outside. We were supposed to have some free time to explore this side of town for dinner on our own, but the rain changed our plans. Since many people on the trip were getting sick with colds and flu like symptoms, we ran in the rain to a nearby pharmacy, and then hopped on a bus to a new destination.

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We arrived at a mall called Sarona Market that was quite hip and contemporary, and were allowed a few hours to wander around and have dinner and drinks with friends. The mall had several places to eat of course, but a reoccurring food were the many noodle bar restaurants. I had some noodles and tried 2 different Israeli craft beers that were both very good.

Smiths playing in Tel Aviv mall, of course I’ll start dancing

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I asked the waitress where the closest dance club was and she laughed and said there is a place called The Bill Jean. I checked google maps and it seemed too far from the designated zone i was allowed to roam. So I started to dance sporadically in the mall – they played all good dance music.

Eclair

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While at the mall I picked up a Japan Vogue and tried some samples of different flavored halavah. I saw a bunch of delicious donuts and bought 2, and shared them with the group. The group bought about half a dozen and cut them into quarters so I did the same and got to try all the donuts.

Tomorrow is finally the day we visit the Old City of Jerusalem.