The Holocaust Museum – Friday May 1, 2015
I started today in the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum. It’s an immersive experience. From the minute you walk in the door you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of what the Jewish people endured from the Nazis in World War 2. Each room bleeds into the next as video and memorabilia slowly overwhelms you. The experience culminates in a hall of names that surrounds from above and below.
While walking through I had a hard time reconciling in my mind what happened then to what is happening now in Palestine. Is it right for the Palestinian people to continue to suffer for the sins of the Nazis? This is their homeland just as much as it is the Jews. The faith and traditions that brought the Jews back here is the oldest of the three faiths that call this city their own, but as God’s chosen people do they have the right to fight their way back? The Old Testament stories are brutal enough, but God’s intention, as I see it, even then wasn’t to exclude others, but to be a light to others. They wanted a king and a temple against the will of God. Today the same story is repeating itself. Will it culminate in a third temple? I think that the two other faiths that grew from those Jewish roots are a sign that God has a different plan.
When I left the museum I was reminded of the Friday prayers of the Muslims as the call to prayer sang out over the loudspeakers from the mosques. For Muslims prayer is a very personal thing. This is a time that they don’t invite outsiders to participate in. Outside of the Friday prayers, it occasionally happens in public, but it still carries a intimate space that is between them and Allah. This is why you rarely see pictures of prayer especially Friday prayer and the trend today is the getting more private. This makes us outsiders spurious. But let me make a different argument for a moment. Maybe there is something we can learn from this. As a Christian I was taught to invite people to church so they can hear about Jesus. At church, however, there are rituals and music and words and emotions that hold no meaning to people who have never been. Is that really the place to help someone make a real connection to God or is it a place were we find enrichment and renewal to face our week? While people do find Christ at church they usually only find him there after having made a genuine connection with someone in the workplace at school or with a neighbor. That’s what I see in the Muslim day of prayer.
Finally tonight Shabbat came once again. This time I watched if from above. I shot a time-lapse of the shadow of the city moving across with western wall as the plaza filled up and singing once again broke out. While I watched a moment happened that was would have been to intrusive to have film. A group of Jewish American teens were at the end of a two week trip to Israel and came to have a corporate Shabbat at this overlook. They sang and shared. In any other context I would have thought this was a Christian youth group. This is another example of what the Jewish people have done so well: education. They remind each other constantly of what they have been through, the lessons they have learned and how then they should live. Their monuments and symbols are built and maintained to remind themselves and their descendants about what their faith means them. That is what the museum I started my day at was all about– a reminder of their most recent season of tribulation.
Note from 2016: I read back over my journal and I am struck by my reaction to the Holocaust Museum. Having been to the West Bank the day before it was very hard to separate the two in my mind. I don’t in any way want to downplay the genocide the Nazi’s perpetrated on the Jews during WWII. I remember crying uncontrollably in the final scene of the movie Shindler’s List just thinking about the humanity that was lost to the world through those events. Still, I stand by what I wrote a year ago. I personally strive to live by the words of Jesus to turn the other cheek, walk that extra mile and love my neighbor. My experience that day challenged me to think about how there might be a way to have a conversation about honoring the memory of those lost in WWII and respecting and valuing the people who have been displaced in the years since. So I challenge you to do the same.
Next Week: I will share my observations from my time in the Mosque for prayers and walking the grounds around the temple mount.
Author: Andy Yardy