Israel, Jerusalem (my 104th country) – Yad Vashem and the Mahaneh Yehuda Market

Well I didn’t mean to start my first visit to Jerusalem with Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum) but we ended up there as our first choice was the Israel Museum but it doesn’t open until 4pm on a Tuesday – which we found out on arrival at 11am! And we wanted to hold off visiting the Old City until Wednesday when we had a full day private tour planned – so decision made to do it earlier on in the visit.

The museum is excellent and comprehensive and as shocking as I had expected. It covers the whole period in the run up to WWII to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and in particular gives histories and memories from each European country and how it was impacted. It becomes easy to see which occupied countries stood out and did what they could to save Jews compared to those who collaborated immediately with the Nazi demands to turn in names.

I always wonder how I would react to these kinds of circumstances and whether I would stand up to do what is right? Of course we’d all like to think we would but even in the workplace I’ve seen how easy it is to do what you are told to do regardless, so imagine what it must be like to be courageous enough to do the right thing when you are risking not only your own but your family’s immediate execution for doing so. This is a debate for a different forum but a review of the events before, during and after the holocaust make you think. This museum makes a big effort to recognise those who were not Jewish who did what they could at huge risk as well as the Jewish resistance fighters during the war. Heroes and heroines – all of them.

The museum is approached from a bridge and its design is modern but sombre in a slate gray triangle shape as you go in and head towards the light. Off both sides of each section as you walk down are rooms that give extensive information and personal memories on what was happening across Europe together with an excellent audio guide.

As was the case when I visited Auschwitz, I find it hard to show pictures of the exhibits and some of the evidence of what happened so I have limited these as I feel this is the kind of place you need to visit for about 3 hours and to immerse yourself in. It is free btw.

The pic below is a little snippet. At the top, examples of anti Jewish sentiment, part of a scale model of Auschwitz Birkenau showing each stage of the process at people were led from the rail tracks down to the “changing rooms” (below) and then following on another showing them naked in the gas chambers screaming as the Zyclon B gas was injected into the space and finally the bodies being removed and taken to the crematorium to be burned. Below that is the Hall of Names which includes the names and personal details of millions of victims as provided by surviving relatives or friends. They still ask visitors to add any others that may be missing so they can be remembered

When you get to the light at the end of the hallway there is a lovely view of the Jerusalem hills and it is good to look at for some reflection time.

In the grounds of Yad Vashem – which are quite large we also visited the Hall of Remembrance with an eternal flame where each camp’s name is etched into the ground and then the Children’s Memorial which is an infinity light tribute to the 1.5 million children murdered during this period. As you walk through you hear their names, age and country of origin being read out. It is very moving.

That evening we had completely different surroundings with a visit to the nearby Mahaneh Yehuda Market and then dinner at an excellent restaurant recommended by my friend Leon called Machneyuda- loud, fun and marvelous local food.

The market has a strong focus on traditional Jewish foods and was a riot of colour. There must be at least 15 halvas to choose from and so many majdool dates and check out the dried watermelon!

And then off to dinner with Jo

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