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Tragedy and Inspiration in Jerusalem

My friend visited me recently, and I took some time off to spend with him. One of our day trips was to Jerusalem, primarily to visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

We started off by taking a relatively new train to Jerusalem from the Ben Gurion Airport. This train takes about half an hour to reach Jerusalem, and shaves an hour (or more) off the previous train route that left from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem train station

As I mentioned recently, I really like the new station. It was a great welcome back to Jerusalem.

We took the light rail up to Mount Herzl, the site of both Theodore Herzl‘s grave, and Yad Vashem.

We arrived at Yad Vashem at a pretty busy time. There were easily half a dozen tour buses there already.

Yad Vashem

We picked up two audio guides for a self-guided tour (although the guided tours are apparently really good too).

The main museum was pretty crowded, although the tour groups eventually moved past us as we walked through the exhibits describing the events leading up to, and the Holocaust itself in visceral detail.

Walking through the museum takes time, and I almost always felt like I was moments away from tears as I listened to the narrative describing how European Jews were first marginalised, dehumanised, and then eradicated in the many death camps they were shipped to like cattle.

It took us three hours to make our way through the exhibits, and each step reinforced why Israel is so important. Having our own country with an effective military means that Jews are no longer subject to the whims of other nations who repeatedly return to old stereotypes, and prejudices.

What still alarms me (even though I know better), is that we see the same rhetoric being repeated in various countries as the Nazis used in the 1930s, and other groups used in the centuries that preceded them. It seems that some things never change. Some people seem to drift back to anti-Semitism when they need someone to blame.

From Yad Vashem, we made our way to the Old City, towards the Western Wall.

Western Wall

We arrived at the Wall after lunch at a nearby schwarma place, and during preparations for Yom HaZikaron (our memorial day for soldiers and victims of terror attacks) two days later.

This photo of these three men sitting, facing the Wall reminded me of a previous visit where I saw three monks leaning over the railing, looking at the Wall and it’s visitors.

From here, we made our way back out of the Old City towards the train station, and home.

Events and Life Travel and places

Southern Israel is under attack at the moment. This is what it looks like.

Southern Israel is under attack, again. Hamas and its allies have been firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and cities for the last day or so. Imagine that you were in this situation:

Image credit: Israel Defense Forces, licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Events and Life Travel and places

My Lisbon experience

I’m in Lisbon for my team’s meetup (last year we were in Rome). Our first day was a free day, and we went on a walking tour of parts of Lisbon. It was a terrific introduction to this city. Of course, I made plenty of photos.

We took the Metro to where we were going to meet our tour guide. I really like Lisbon’s subway stations. They each have a distinctive design, most of which appeal to me.

Rossio Square

We started off in Rossio Square where we met our tour guide, and started our walk.

Lisbon Massacre Memorial

Our first stop from there was a church that was a focal point of a tragedy for the Lisbon Jewish community, the Lisbon Massacre.

From there, we made our way back past Rossio Square deeper into the city.

Carmo Convent

We made our way up a hill (Lisbon is pretty hilly) to the Carmo Convent, which is also near an archaeological museum. There was a public gathering ahead of the Portuguese Freedom Day (also known as the Carnation Revolution). According to Culture Trip:

The words “military coup” and “peaceful” don’t usually go hand in hand, but they do when describing Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. Every year on April 25, Portugal remembers the non-violent rebellion that ended a 50-year long dictatorship and reestablished democracy in the country. Also known as Freedom Day, April 25 has become a national holiday that is celebrated across the country and in particular, in Lisbon.

How the Portuguese Celebrate April 25th, the Carnation Revolution

Santa Justa Lift

The popular Santa Justa Lift is nearby, so we went there next. Most tourists seem to queue at the bottom of the lift (you pay to go to the top). We walked across from the Carmo Convent to the public viewing deck (no charge for that), and had a remarkable view of much of the city.

Snack Break

We made our way back down to the street to head to a famous pastel de nata bakery for a snack (it was still Pesach, so I just had to admire them).

Tram Ride to the Old Quarter

From our snack break, we took a tram up to the older sections of the city. Much of Lisbon was destroyed in 1755 by a massive earthquake so the buildings we saw so far were relatively new as the city was largely rebuilt. The older section of the city, higher on the hill, fared better as it was built on bedrock.

The view from up there was pretty spectacular. You can see the harbour, and much of the city from that vantage point.

Alfama’s Illustrated History of Portugal

Alfama also contains a curious history of Portgual in the form of a comic painted onto the walls of a tunnel.

After that, we made our way through the twisting alleys towards the bottom of the hill. It started raining on and off, along the way.