Today, our first activity was visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. Our guide, who took us around the museum, taught us about why the building was shaped the way it was and the meaning behind specific choices such as the concrete floors, meant to make museum visitors feel uncomfortable. In addition, we learned about the Righteous Among Nations. This title is to honor citizens that put their life at risk, did not make any money, and were non-Jewish people that helped Jews in the Holocaust. When given this honor, one receives a certificate, an Israeli citizenship, and a tree is planted in their honor. Many of us were shocked at the number of people were awarded this enormous honor (over 27,000) and people are still being honored today. All of us were touched by the museum and the specific stories of Holocaust survivors as well as people who didn’t survive. One story that stuck with us was about a woman and man who both survived the concentration camps. When the war was over they met each other in a displacement camp, a place for holocaust survivors, and got married without really knowing each other. They did this because for so long they both had been alone and if they figured if they were married, they wouldn’t be alone anymore. The woman shared that when she realized she was having a baby; she was devastated because she was traumatized from the crying of children in the concentration camps. She was forced to have the baby and as soon as her son was born, she couldn’t believe she ever thought she did not want this child. In addition, at the end of the tour, we visited the children’s memorial. This was a really moving place because while walking through the dark hallway with 5 candles, that appeared as thousands, the name, age, and place where a child who died in the Holocaust was said out loud. Names of 15-17-year-old kids were being named as well as children as young as 23 hours. Overall, visiting Yad Vashem was extremely emotional and moving, and an experience we know none of us will ever forget.
Following our Yad Vashem visit, we went to a shuk. We all walked around and experienced the craziness of life there. In addition, for many of the kids, it was their first-time bargaining. Many people purchased souvenirs for themselves as well as family and friends.
The second half of our day began with a walking graffiti tour around Jerusalem. We learned that street art is more than just vandalism. The art represents people’s opinions, what the artists believe in, and what they deem important.
After the tour, we continued our excursion and visited an organization called Kids4Peace. It is a youth movement that tries to bring children together from different religious and political backgrounds. While there, we met a member named Kais. He is a sixteen-year-old Muslim boy living in Jerusalem. He told us about his experience in the Kids4Peace summer camp, and we sang “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu”, a song for peace! While there, we learned about the importance of coexistence and friendship despite having differences. We ended our day with a beautiful dinner.
-Sophie and Zoe