Rutgers Hillel Students at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial
By Dan Munoz ’15
Of all the experiences we had over the course of our Birthright trip with Rutgers Hillel, Yad Vashem was by far the most difficult. Looking back, I’m glad we headed there early on in the trip, so as to not dampen our moods later on. Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. The park consists of a multitude of memorials, parks, nature trails, as well a museum, all of which cover a mountainside that faces the beautiful valley below.
The visit brought us to several memorials, but the two that I remember the most were the Children’s Memorial and Hall with all the concentration camps. In the Children’s Memorial, we entered a dark room with a large black column. Lit candles coupled with mirrors gave the appearance of an eternal sea of candles, one for each child that had perished in the Holocaust. The room was quite dark, and as I followed the path, the speakers boomed out the name, age, town and country of a different child.
In the next memorial, in the hall with all of the names of the concentration camps, we entered a short, rectangular structure. On the inside, the dark metal floor was inscribed with the names of different concentration camps across Europe. In the center of the building stood a flame, housed by some contorted, twisted metal structure. Upon talking about this memorial afterwards with the group, many of us agreed on the unwelcoming, uninviting, and somewhat frightening atmosphere that the building gave to its visitors. Perhaps the hardest part for us was the museum itself. If I had to, I couldn’t use words to really describe the museum and my experience there.
The site described in detail the events that led up to the Holocaust, the sequence of events in this point in history, as well as the aftermath. It offered photographs, first hand accounts from several sides, as well as historical artifacts. It was a very sensitive topic for us all, and there were a lot of strong emotions. Ultimately, I believe that this was an insightful and important experience as myself as a Jew. For anyone looking to further their understanding of the Holocaust and Jewish history, I would definitely recommend the museum, and Yad Vashem as a whole.