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Events and Life Politics and government Spirituality Travel and places

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.

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Travel and places

Jewish pride at the new Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem

I took the new(ish) fast train to Jerusalem with my friend today. It was my first time on that train, and I really enjoyed the new Yitzhak Navon station.

We arrived mid-morning, and was greeted by this Star of David Shadow caused by lines of Israeli flags in the open air atrium of the station:

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Travel and places

A wintery Jerusalem day trip

We went on a wintery Jerusalem day trip yesterday with family. I made a point of capturing more scenes with my camera, bearing in mind Eric Kim’s photography advice for 2017 (particularly point 2). I really like many of the photos I made. I think I’m also slowly getting the hang of more of Lightroom’s functionality to tweak lighting in parts of photos to improve them. Here are some of my favourites from the album:

Reaching for the Divine

This moment of this man reaching up to leave a note in the Kotel was a wonderful capture.

Winter Jerusalem day trip

Of course the shuk where you can buy (and bargain for) all sorts of paraphernalia.

Winter Jerusalem day trip

I didn’t notice the couple on the left when I took the photo. I saw them when I edited the photo. Terrific moment!

Mamilla Mall crowd

This woman stepped into my frame so I just incorporated her into the shot.

Street violinist

This woman was playing higher up on Jaffa Street outside a well-known pizzeria. I had to photograph her playing.

I’ve shared my Jerusalem day trip album on Flickr so head over there for the full experience. Just click on this image below:

2016-12-29 A Wintery day in Jerusalem

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Events and Life Spirituality Travel and places

Our Holocaust and ancient spirituality

My mother arrived for her first visit to Israel and I took her to Jerusalem. Our first visit was to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. We took the light rail from the central bus station up to Mount Herzl and walked along the edge of the forest to the museum.

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center

We decided to do a self-guided tour of the museum and hired two audio guides and entered the main museum. It is shaped almost like a deep prism and your path through the various exhibits is a winding one. You can’t simply walk from one side to the other, you have to cross through all the Holocaust exhibits and be immersed in the unfolding tragedy as you go.

I wasn’t new to the Holocaust. I’ve been exposed to it for most of my life. Just the same, I found the museum almost overwhelming. It was filled with stories of communities that were, at first, sidelined. Later, they were taken from their homes, relegated to ghettos and, finally, shipped to the camps where roughly two thirds of all European Jews were murdered.

Photos of Holocaust victims
Israel Tourism, licensed CC BY SA 2.0

What the exhibits depicted using photos, video footage from the time and collections of victims’ personal effects and writings was just how brutal the genocide was. I found myself fighting back tears for most of the two hours we spent walking through it all.

The view as you exit the museum

We emerged at the other end of the museum and were presented with this remarkable view of the valley. It is a life affirming sight, almost as if the museum’s architect is saying –

Look! After all this tragedy and devastation, this is what we must protect. This is a reminder of what we must never forget and what can never happen again.

The Kotel

David's tower and the Old City walls
David’s tower and the Old City walls

It was fitting that our next stop was the Kotel (also known as the Western Wall). On the other side of the Kotel is the holiest Jewish site – the Temple Mount. This was the site of the two great Temples and is also the object of considerable tension with Muslims who regard the Temple Mount as their third holiest site.

The Kotel
The Western Wall (the “Kotel”) in Jerusalem.

The first time I saw the Wall, it seemed so small. I expected it to be bigger and, as I learned a week later when we return for a tour of the tunnels underneath it, the visible wall we see now was only a small part of the original wall. Visiting the Kotel is a fairly personal experience. To me, it is a monument to an ancient people, my ancestors. It is a reminder of what we have been through and what we fight for every day.

I love this photo of these monks watching visitors to the Wall.
I love this photo of these monks watching visitors to the Wall.

Just the beginning

That day in Jerusalem was just the start of a staycation with my mother. I still had a couple more days to work that week before taking the week of Chol Hamoed off for some downtime, local tourism and quality time with my family. It was also the beginning of what turned out to be a profound personal journey that I’ll share in subsequent articles.

In the meantime, I have published my album from that day to Flickr. You’re welcome to view more photos here:

Jerusalem visit collage
View my gallery of photos on Flickr.