Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Day 10: Remembering

The morning was spent traveling to, and touring Yad Vashem. We could not tour the whole campus because the snow damaged some tree and was blocking parts of the property. It wasn’t all bad, though. That gave us more time in the museum itself.

The entire building is a symbol, all the way through. It’s a triangle, one half of a magendavid; the Holocaust took half of a people away. When you walk in, you can see the end of the building, but you can’t get there straight away, because it’s blocked by several installations that are surrounded by wire fencing. There were a few skylights that allowed natural light in certain places that showcased tiny rays of hope in a terrible, dark time in history.

There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but that’s just fine. I don’t think I’d ever want to see pictures of the inside, nor would pictures capture what you see in there. There are the the things that everyone expects, like the Nazi propaganda and the pictures of the camps, but it’s the subtle things that really got me. There were antisemitic artworks and board games. There was also an installation about some of the worst Nazis…but it was about how they were well-educated, otherwise normal people. That was really difficult to see. It’s so easy to think of these people as monsters…but isn’t that how they saw us in the war?

When we got to the Warsaw Ghetto exhibit, we saw where they had installed bricks and rail road from the actual place. We saw videos and pictures of how terrible conditions were. However, it was still kind of like a town…and the people naturally got bored. The most striking things for me to see was how these people amused themselves. They put on plays for each other, and we saw photos of the casts. They played for each other. They painted and drew and thrived as a suffering, terrified people. As a theatre person, it’s fascinating and refreshing to know that art was, is, and can be used as a tool for relief from terrible social situations. It’s also heart wrenching, because that was all some people had.

We saw diaries and letters. Heart breaking and inspiring alike. Then I saw a hand drawn board game. A personalized version of Monopoly called based on their ghetto. It struck me, and I had no words. It was like they accepted this life as truth, but felt they also deserved a semi-normal life…and a game based of their life.

The last room is dedicated to remembering those who died. There are photos, and books that the Foundation is trying to fill with biographies of those people. Unfortunately, so many records were destroyed, and so many towns were just flat out destroyed that we might not ever be able to name them all.

The view outside the place is phenomenal. It’s representative of the future for Israel and the Jewish people.

 

It was astonishing that there was a gift shop. It wasn’t garish, though, which was refreshing. There were many books, even if there were a few souvenirs. I flipped through one book full of poems. One was written by a woman who watched men take her mother and her sister’s son away. She confessed that she traded her elderly mother for her sister to stay, because the men were taking the son and one other regardless. I couldn’t read any more after that.

The bus ride was a nice buffer for lunch, which we had in the shook in New Jerusalem. We walked all up and down the marketplace, and negotiated for some very delicious pizza challah rolls. There was also a bit of shopping where I bought some beautiful artwork. (I’m on the ship, and the artwork is at home, so pictures some point in the future.) It was fun to haggle, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. At one point, our Israeli soldier guard/guide, Ziv, was with us, and helped us with some of the prices.

 

We got back on the bus, which has long since felt like our home away from home, and drove by the security fence, and learned a bit about Israeli security.

Then we stopped by the bus stop where there was a bombing in 2002. I just can’t imagine, even after 9/11/2001, going along your day and having to be fearful of the buses, even.

 

We had dinner at the hostel, and then blew off some steam with another night out in Tel Aviv. We “accidentally” bumped into some people we knew, and had a grand time in another bar. Ofer and I got into another deep conversation, and it lasted almost the whole time we were there. At one point I was telling him and some others about the way Frank proposed to me, and it really touched him. He felt a deep connection with me, and he decided to give me a great gift: part of his IDF uniform. It is one of the best things I have to remember my experience.

 

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Day 5: Shopping and Israelis!

This was the day we were told to wait for. This was shopping day…after a tour. This was Safat Day. Shopping, shopping, shop-ping!

But first a tour. I’m going to be quite honest here…I remember very little about the tour because of the frigid weather. It was rain/icing, and it was not one bit fun.

There were a couple of cool things I do remember about the place (besides the shopping).

Everything has blue painted on it somewhere.

 

The idea is that bad spirits coming to Earth will believe they are still in the sky, and pass on through.

There was also this place:

This alley is said to be part of the most direct route to Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. So, the messiah would have to pass though here. There was a woman several years back (but less than 10, so it’s not just a legend) that outlived her entire family. She would come to this spot with tea, coffee and cookies. When asked what she was doing, she said she was waiting for the messiah, and if he came by she didn’t want to miss him. When asked about her cookies, she said that he might be hungry. When asked why she had tea and coffee, she would say that she didn’t know which he would prefer. When she passed away, they put up a sign with her story.

 

The best part was this little boy who walked passed us as we were hearing one of these stories. It had been hailing and flurrying all morning, but not much. It was just cold. This boy had gathered all the snow and ice he could find on his route to school, and called to our group. “Look!” he said. We all congratulated him on his golf ball sized snow ball. Then he said “I can throw?” Of course we all said “Sure!” because who’s going to deny a child of maybe the only snowball throwing he’ll ever have? It hit out Kesher coordinator, and she wasn’t happy, but it was pretty much the highlight of the day.

While shopping, I bought…way too much. Two pieces of art featuring the Hebrew word for “life” and a silver magendavid inlaid with eilat, which is the national stone of Israel, and only found in the Negev Desert.

After this, we met up with our Israeli friends for lunch. The night before, we had made the facebook pages for them, and at this point, we were presenting them to our new friends. Luckily, they all loved the pages we made, even though the one I helped make was pretty off.

We were going to go the the Golan Heights, which I hear are pretty amazing, but apparently the wind would have blown us off the mountain or something, so we just watched a movie about them. It was a multi-dimentional movie with water for rain and fans for the breeze and everything. I sat by Miri, one of our new friends, and she and I and Brian made fun of it hardcore.

We immediately regretted the making fun of, and most of us probably wished we could have watched a video for the next part as well, but then we went to a nature preserve for Griffon vultures. It was pretty cool, and we even saw some! (I don’t have a very good camera, though, so I just enjoyed the moment.)

Afterwards, we headed to a new hostel. We had a presentation on Israeli cinema, which was pretty cool, and probably would have been way cooler had it not been at about 9 pm.

After that, we played a round of the paper telephone game, but there were far too many people, and it took far too long.

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ISRAEL: the beginning…

So, I’ve been back for a while, but the holidays and I have to go back to work sooner than I thought. I’ve been busy.

Lets start with Day 1, and I’ll post about the days. Okay, here goes.

The flight was leaving from Philly, and that’s about a three hour drive from where I live. As much as my fiance loves me, and would have driven me, he totally didn’t want to do it, and the weather was supposed to be bad anyway. So I took the train. It started to…not exactly snow? But it was cold and there was tiny ice falling from the sky.

Fastforward though train ride…remember I forgot all my make up, but meh; I was going to be in the desert for 10 days…cold transfers in stations that you have to stand outside for, what?….arrive at the airport.

Mkay, so I thought I would be the only one wicked early at like 2, when everyone was supposed to meet up at 5 for our flight at 9. I was not the earliest one. I met a few of the people, and at first it felt like our Jewishness was going to be the only thing that all 40 of us would have in common…I can be a little awkward at making friends. Quickly, and fortunately, that turned out to be a false assumption. As 5 o’clock drew nearer, more people flooded into our area, and we had to move. Conversations got detailed really, really quickly, but in all positive ways, I think.

Unfortunately, some people on our trip just didn’t make it to the airport. Here’s why:

Photos courtesy of Mirav Kesher. Not her real. But that’s her facebook name, so it’s all good.

Most of us were there, though, and got ready to go!

ticket

Obligatory shot of necessary travel documents. Yep, the nametag was necessary…for about two days. I don’t think there are actually any pictures of us wearing them. There’s not one I’ve found of me. I don’t think there are any pictures of the ice breakers, either. Oh, the icebreakers…

Of course, with the weather we were delayed. But we didn’t know how much we would be delayed…our 9:40 flight didn’t leave till about midnight. Mirav (Jenna), who I was sitting with, and I joked that she’d have her degree and I’d be married by the time we left. It was okay though, because Avi was our rabbinical representative and he was sitting right in front of us; he could perform the wedding….haha.

Anyway. Then we were on our way. Now, I have this stuffed dog that I’ve taken everywhere. I’ve had him since I was 1 year old. My mother tried to get me to retire him before college.

Nope!

And now I’m 25, and he went to Israel with me!!

IMG_0574While I didn’t take him to literally everywhere we went (because one morning we woke up at 4:30 am to climb a mountain. FOUR-THIRTY to CLIMB a MOUNTAIN…ahem. That’s another post), he was at every hostel…and tent.

Commence twelve hour plane ride…

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