Yesterday was the day I had been dreading. Every time I checked my itinerary: Friday, 8:45. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. I didn’t want to go. I really really didn’t want to go and I desperately needed to go all at once. I was a swirl of nervous anxiety walking up to the front door. What if it was just another tour, just another museum we shuffled through? What if I zoned out, hearing only with my brain and never settling into my heart? What if I, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, couldn’t cry?
And then the guide casually mentioned that the ramp we were walking on was just like the ones the Jews used to enter the gas chambers, and with chills, I reached for my Kleenex as the floodgates opened. It was power, overwhelming, informative and grotesquely beautiful.
Lost in my imagination, deep in my soul, the stark concrete walls that angled as if to close in upon us became my personal gas chamber. I couldn’t hear the guide, as the hoards of tourists suddenly were my fellow Jews herded into the trapped walls of our death. At one point, I stepped away from the exhibit, needing to catch my breath, needing to quell the panic, the suffocation.
I stepped away to remind myself of the miracle of Israel, the blessing of having my feet on Israeli soil even as I bore witness to the gapping wounding in our collective history, the climax of my ancestors history, the truth of my past.
This museum and the reality of the Holocaust is why I would stand as an Israeli citizen before all other nationalities. So that Never Again will there be no one to come for us. Never again will we have to perish alone. Never again will we be trapped without a home to go to. Never Again. Never Again.
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