Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is the Jewish People’s living memorial to the Holocaust.
It safeguards the memory of those who were slaughtered and teaches future generations about the unspeakable horrors.
Many people think that if they’ve visited it once then there’s no point in going again – but they are so wrong. The area that Yad Vashem covers both physically and emotionally, is vast and there are new exhibits constantly being organized.
On a recent visit I saw the shul/ synagogue.
Apart from being used for regular prayers it is also used for people who want a place to say Kaddish, or to sit down and pray after an emotional visit.
It contains various items of Judaica from shuls all over Europe including four Arks for storing the Sifrei Torah which all came from Rumania and were procured for Yad Vashem with the help of Rumanian government.
Next door to the shul is a new exhibit to honor the Righteous Amongst the Nations who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Inside there are five areas with seating to watch different films depicting the different ways in which people were saved, including those who took in children and returned them to the Jewish authorities after the war, those who hid families in cellars, countries where someone in the the government intervened and rescued them and those where both the Jews and the non-Jews were discovered by the Nazis and killed.
The stories are both fascinating and very moving and shed a new light on the history of Jews saved by Gentiles.
We then visited the new Learning Centre also known as the “Center for Major Questions Arising from the Holocaust,” which attempts to discuss and give opinions on the many theological, societal and military questions raised by the Holocaust.
Some are just not answerable, i.e. Why did G’d let the Holocaust happen, but are still discussed. Others are given a selection of answers from various appropriate people / authorities, i.e. Why did the Allied Air Force not bomb the tracks to Auschwitz.
Yad Vashem has also launched a new more urgent collection of personal items that are, or were, in the possession of survivors. Our guide told us many stories of items that children of survivors thought were of not much interest, but for others provided an only link to their parents/ grandparents who perished.
Yad Vashem works very hard to trace people ( or their descendents) mentioned in letters/ notebooks or identified on photos it receives.
As Eli Wiesel once said- Anyone who listens to a witness, becomes a witness himself.