Day 5 | 2022 Children’s Village Teen Volunteer Program
Today was the most impactful and meaningful day so far. We woke up at 6:45, and had breakfast in the lobby of the hotel at 7. Once everyone was fed and ready to start the day, we all left in the bus to go to Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is an extremely impressive memorial for the Holocaust which focuses on the individuals who were killed, or who sacrificed themselves for others. We began the tour at 9:00 AM, with an amazing tour guide named Hazy. The thing that impacted me the most about the museum was the fact that it focused on the individual stories of each person. We are so used to hearing the statistics of people who were killed, or people that were displaced, that they begin to lose significance. However, by seeing the faces of the men, women, and children who were killed, reading their diaries, and walking on the same pavement that they did, their stories seemed more real to me, and made me feel even more connected to this piece of history. The museum made us all think of the value of legacy, and how it is our duty as a generation to keep the memories of these victims alive. If we don’t, and if we avoid difficult topics like this, the victims will disappear forever, and history may repeat itself. To prevent this, we were challenged to remember a name and their story. I chose to remember David Bergman, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz. He and his father vowed to celebrate properly once the war ended, but they didn’t get the chance because his father was murdered upon arriving to the camp. David was finally able to travel to Israel to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah for his 80th birthday, over 60 years later. Walking through the museum made me appreciate every little thing I have. It put our problems in perspective, and made me understand how much I take for granted. After spending 3 hours in the museum, we got on the bus and drove towards the old city.
It started drizzling as we walked down a hill to the entrance to the City of David. First, we watched a short video about the history of Jerusalem just to learn a little bit about the city before entering the tunnels. Then, we walked down a series of steps, slick from the rain, into the ground. We then climbed through various tunnels and underground rooms, only slipping and falling a couple of times. It was really interesting to see the way people lived so many years ago, and to see common threads running through each city we see, like figuring out how to access water. In the tunnels, we walked on Herodian Street, which was once the heart of the old City of David almost 2,000 years ago. After finally climbing out of the tunnels, we had a delicious lunch of bagel sandwiches. While we ate, we reflected on our experiences at Yad Vashem. We discussed how getting to see the faces of victims, and learning about their lives changed our perspective on the Holocaust, as these people were no longer statistics; they were real people. After eating and walking back to the bus, we had a bit of time to ourselves before leaving for the next set of activities.
Before dinner, our group walked through Jerusalem towards the Western Wall. On our way, we stopped on a rooftop on which we could see a few major holy landmarks of the city, including the Golden Dome and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Because it was Friday night, we were one of the only people out, so it was very quiet and private. On the rooftop, we had a really meaningful conversation about our relationships with faith and religion. It was interesting to hear how different our experiences are, and how the trip so far has impacted our ideas of faith. We stood in a circle and discussed our parent’s religions, how we identify religiously, if at all, and if we are spiritual people. This was the moment in which we really came together as a family on this trip. Discussing these topics, which we may normally be uncomfortable with, really brought us together because of the honesty and vulnerability which each person displayed. So far, this is my favorite moment of the trip.
After spending a few more minutes reflecting silently with ourselves, we walked to the Western Wall. We spent about 45 minutes at the wall, reflecting silently. The wall had a divider down the middle, separating the men from the women, and there was a distinct difference. On the men’s side, there was music playing, cheering, and dancing. However, the women’s side was much more solemn. Women prayed, kissed the wall, and whispered to each other before sticking a note into a crevice and walking back up the stairs. I didn’t know what to expect when we went to the wall, but it truly was an amazing experience. I’m not Jewish, but I have never felt so connected to a place before. I loved the atmosphere of it all; the quiet, the respect for the space, and the spiritual connections I felt. After leaving the wall, there was a different feeling in the air; one of calmness and unity amongst the group.
We ended the day with a delicious, yet chaotic dinner in an Italian restaurant called Focaccia near our hotel. We had picked our meals beforehand, so we were able to relax and enjoy our last night in the city. Today was an extremely meaningful day to the group, and it really changed me for the better.