In one of the more emotional and difficult tours on the trip, we visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum and home to the International Institute of Holocaust Research. The museum itself houses hours of historical footage, video interviews, and artifacts, including the famous Hall of Names, a memorial dedicated to remembering each and every person killed in the Holocaust. Many students recounted this visit as their most touching memory.
Student Andrea Lau recalls what Yad Vashem represents and how the experience affected her:
“ה וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי, יָד וָשֵׁם–טוֹב, מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת: שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן-לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת.”
Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.- Isaiah 56:5
The literal meaning of Yad Vashem is derived from Isaiah 56:5. God promised His people a place and a name that will last for all eternity. Even though millions of Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust, they will never lose their names or their place of remembrance. Yad Vashem is Israel’s national Holocaust museum and memorial, constructed to commemorate the millions of Jews that lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Upon entering the giant prismatic building, you are overcome with the austerity of the high ceilings and dark walls. The museum is designed so that the viewer is forced to take one single path. Although you can stray a little to the left or the right, the reality is that one path is ultimately the only path through the entire exhibit and you are faced with what that same idea meant for the Jews. Throughout the Holocaust, Jewish families were forced off of the sidewalks, ripped from their homes and careers, forced into ghettos, and deported to concentration camps. Their path was fixed for them by a cruel and ruthless plan to eliminate the Jews.
In the Hall of Names, the viewer is surrounded by shelves upon shelves of binders and photos commemorating the millions of Jews that lost their lives to the Holocaust. The dome of photos displayed overhead vibrates with the overwhelming presence of loss. There are no words for how it feels to look into the eyes of so many whose lives could not be lived to the fullest. Yad Vashem is a stunning and emotional tribute to all the poor souls that lost the chance to live their lives and it is an experience that I will not soon forget.