A Day at the Museum – February 10

Another beautiful, sunny, warm day in Jerusalem – and it’s winter! The wonderful pastries we bought last night from a vendor in the Jewish Quarter turned out to be NOT sweet. The round one that looked like a cinnamon roll was actually a pizza roll and the one that we thought was berry filled was actually filled with mushrooms. Arochet boker (breakfast) was a little more arochet erev (dinner) than we expected. But, food is food when you’re hungry, it’s morning and you have a full day of events to accomplish before the setting sun.

We took our car on this day’s adventures because the two museums we wanted to visit were close by. The first one, the Israel Museum has The Shrine of the Book and the model of the Second Temple. The Shrine of the Book is where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. I had waited for some profound moment in Jerusalem and walking into the room where the scroll of Isaiah is on display, I had my moment.

The first verse I ever learned as a child came from Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” Here, right in front of me was an ancient scroll of Isaiah with the Words of the Lord that had stood the test of time. Tears came to my eyes as I walked around the scroll stopping every step to absorb the enormity of the Hebrew letters written so long ago by a scribe in Qumran. Words that were so cherished by the Essenes that they had been put in a clay jar for preservation. Much of Isaiah is prophetic about the days to come. Stop and consider (selah): to find a scroll nearly intact holding the words of prophecy for the end of days to be found in 1948 as Israel became a nation after thousands of years of exile …. Perhaps that’s why my heart was so overwhelmed.

The significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they prove beyond all doubt, that the Hebrew Scriptures we have today are almost entirely without error. Each scroll that was found was compared to the modern texts and there were few, if any differences. The find also makes the Hebrew Scriptures older than all other religious texts because the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the Septuagint (Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek) written hundreds of years before the common era (B.C.E.).

From the Shrine of the Book, we walked a few yards to the small scale model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This would have been the size of the city when Yeshua came to Jerusalem. The Temple is where Yeshua would have gone when he was 12 years old for one of the ‘appointed times’. The Solomon’s Colonnade and Temple Courts would have been where he taught, reasoned with the teachers of Torah, and over turned the money changers tables.

Our second museum for the day was Yad Vashem or The Holocaust Museum. The name speaks for itself and comes from Isaiah 56:5: “… to them I will give within my temple and its walls  a memorial and a name  better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.”

After entering the compound of memorials, we walked down the Avenue of the Righteous. This is a walkway with trees planted on either side in memorial to those ‘righteous gentiles’ who were willing to give their lives to protect and save Jewish people from the horrors of the Holocaust. We saw names from every country in Europe: Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. The one name we wanted to find was from Holland, Corrie Ten Boom. Her tree was smaller than all the others because the year that she passed away, her original tree died.  The reason I included Denmark and Danish righteous is because my husband’s grandfather emigrated to the United States from Denmark.  Denmark was one country that did whatever it could to save Jews from the Germans.  There was a quote along side a small boat that was used to smuggle Jews out of Denmark that said, “Who is a Jew?  All we see are human beings.”

From the Avenue of the Righteous we went into the Hall of Remembrance. It is required for all men to wear a kippah and everyone is to remain silent. The room is a large square. The walk way is raised above the floor.

The floor below is painted black. The Hebrew and English names of the death camps are embossed in black around the floor. An eternal flame burns in a black sculpture that reminded me of a wood furnace or stove. A box below the flame holds some cremated remains brought from the death camps. To stand in silence and read the names of the Triblinka and Auschwitz and Bergen Belzen while the flame burns silences the soul. Selah

The last place we wanted to visit was the Hall of Names. This is where every name of every person who died in a concentration camp is recorded. In order to reach that Hall, we had to go through a ‘walk of history’ from the pre-war events that alerted those who had the money to emigrate to other countries until the post-war restoration of Israel. To stop and read and listen to everything presented in the different rooms would have been sensory overload and taken days, but at those places we stopped to read or listen to a survivor tell about his or her childhood brought to light more truth and pain about those days.

Diary pages of young people who had dreams of traveling the world and photographs of young married couples who had their lives ahead of them filled the walls. Personal items showed the defilement of a human culture. The piles of silver menorahs and kiddush cups and Pesach seder plates revealed the greed of the Germans. The floor case filled with the various shoes of murdered children made me stop and stare. There were tennis-type shoes, Sabbath-best shoes, flat shoes, holey shoes, but all black shoes. Bits and pieces of clothing were hanging on different walls along with portraits and newspaper clippings.

There was a cattle train car that carried people to their deaths and near the end was a small boat retrieved from Denmark that floated people to life. There was a model of a gas chamber and the ‘walk of death’ that each man, woman, and child took until the end of their lives. In the middle of the pain and sorrow there were tales of kindness and deliverance as those years touched everyone whether they lived, died or rescued those destined for the gas chambers.

The final room was shaped like a big tube about 30 feet high. Around the walls of the tube, from top to bottom were shelves and shelves filled with volumes of books listing the names of the six million men, women and children who died in the Holocaust. In the center was a tube filled with photographs of those listed in the books. A small walkway went around the center tube. In front of you were the photos and behind you were the volumes of books. Below the center tube was a deep, dark pool of water that seemed to go into an abyss.

When we entered the museum, there was a place to register someone you may know who died during the war. Though there were more volumes than anyone could count, there were still empty shelves waiting for new names for memorial.

My daughter didn’t want to visit the memorial. She said she didn’t like to think about the Nazis and the horror and pain they inflicted on innocent people. I reminded her several times that we were not there to be horrified, but to read the names of people who had died. By saying their name out loud, or thinking their name in your head, by standing for one minute in front of their name, they are no longer forgotten. If for one second, you remember one person, the memorial has served its purpose.

The entrance to the Hall of Names had a quote. Though I can’t remember it exactly, the woman said that we are to remember that they didn’t have the strength of will to go through what they did because they were human just like each of us. Selah

From the Holocaust Museum, we made our way back to the apartment so we could do final shopping in the Old City. Once inside the Jaffa Gate (and yes, every time we entered or exited we touched the mezzuah), we quickly went to Christ Church Guest House where they have a coffee shop. We were all wanting another mocha!

We started our shopping spree by going down David’s Street. Because we had spent so much time in the Old City with all the vendors, we knew exactly what we were looking for and avoided all the vender ‘in your face’ buying and selling. I would love to tell y’all what we bought, but if my children read this, they will know how awesome we are as parents! Suffice it to say, we found more than we ‘bargained for’ in a little shop with another Brasilian. So, instead of buying and selling in Hebrew, we both tried our Portuguese. This young man’s father is Arab and his mother is Brasilian. He speaks English (very well), Hebrew, French, Arabic, and a little Portuguese. We had a great time in his shop laughing and mixing three languages together. My husband shared a Turkish coffee with him and we learned about smoking hukkah which my son will be pleased to hear. I’m sure Baha was elated when we left his shop because we bought just about everything we wanted in his store and spent a lot of shekelim!

The last item on my Jerusalem itinerary was to watch the sun set from the Haas Promenade. We didn’t have much time after shopping as the sun was beginning to set so we grabbed a taxi to get to the promenade. We arrived at the perfect moment at the end of the day. Just as I was told, “When you see the sun set over Jerusalem, you understand why it’s called “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Psalm 137:4-6 “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

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