Jerusalem on Yom Hashoah


Jerusalem on Yom 


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A Journal Entry from a Personal Experience in Jerusalem

By Eric Podell

Tuesday- 5/02/2000- Jerusalem

I was sitting on a bench eating a bagel and cream cheese right around the corner from Kikar Zion near Ben Yehuda Street. It was the typical city scene; a couple on my right passionately engaged in argument, a girl talking away into her cellular phone, a man drilling a sign high above on a ladder, people waiting at a crowded bus stop, and the taxis and buses speeding through the streets…Then it all came to a grinding halt.

As loud sirens sounded at exactly 10:00am, the drilling above went quiet, the girl on her cellular phone stood still, and the couple both bowed their heads to the ground in silence. The buses and taxis stopped right in their tracks. It was like choreographical “blocking” used in the theater; people were positioned and standing in ways that captured the tragic drama of the moment. As I too observed the moment of silence for those lost in the Holocaust, I was both saddened by the tragedy yet proud to be standing on that street, with those people paying honor. The heart of a nation has never looked clearer than Israel on Yom Hashoah. Sometimes the most beautiful sights appear out of the saddest tragedies.

In the afternoon I made my way to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The city of Jerusalem has a melancholy feel to it this day; people paying genuine respect for the families lost. At Yad Vashem I met my friend's second cousins, Rose and Irving Meth who both miraculously survived Auschwitz. Now I would meet the Holocaust face to face.

Rose’s story would blow Steven Speilberg’s mind. Rose, along with four other young girls, was responsible for the only uprising to ever take place in the hell that was Auschwitz. The girls worked at the weapons factory within the camp, and everyday they would sneak gunpowder in their pockets until, after nearly eight months, they gathered a strong amount. When the crematorium at Auschwitz was blown up one unsuspecting day, it was Rose and her courageous friends who were responsible. Tragically, as with all Holocaust stories, the four girls were caught and publicly hanged, while Rose and what remained of her diary made it out alive. Now she is the reminder, a symbol of both the horrors of the Holocaust as well as the strength of the human spirit.

We were walking around the museum when we came across a monument in honor of Rose’s four friends who perished. Rose spoke with me, placed a rock on the monument, and cried passionately for her lost friends. Maybe they were tears for the horror of humanity that was the Holocaust. Maybe she just misses her friends. She made it clear to me that her name was also supposed to be on that monument. We then passed a faceless sculpture entitled, “The Silent Cry”. With a strong voice and an intense look deep in her eyes, Rose asked me if I knew the purpose of this dramatic monument. “Do you know why they call this ‘The Silent Cry’?” she asked. “Because nobody would listen. Nobody wanted to hear our cries.”

As we silently stood in the Hall of Remembrance staring at the Eternal Flame, an Israeli couple stopped Irving and Rose and asked them the unanswerable question: “You two were there, how could this happen? One and a half million children were butchered, how could G-d allow this to happen?” asked the religious man. This is a question I too asked myself with no resolve. With an aging voice and sad eyes Irving answered by saying simply that there is no answer. We will never be able to devise an explanation for such a horrific chapter in our history. Rose said that G-d chose the Jewish people to be strong, from the Exodus from Egypt and the story of Passover to Buchenwald and Auschwitz centuries later.

She mentioned how we have beautiful generations of Jewish people, we have our own beautiful nation, and the Jews are built on blood sweat and tears, and the ability to overcome these conditions. They both agreed that it is our strength that keeps us together. Through a sick, raspy voice, Irving began to weep. The Israeli couple began to cry as well; the woman covering her face, the man grasping the bridge of his nose beneath his eyeglasses and staring at the ground.

As I stand in this half circle with two Holocaust survivors, my good friend, and an Israeli couple, the grief and tragic emotion being expressed is overwhelming. Yet, through this trip we have been sitting on buses together, praying on Shabbat together, living in Israel together, and now we Jews cry together.

As Irving tries to wipe his tears and I swallow the lump in my throat, the man we just met shakes my hand and says, “Hopefully we will meet again in a better place.” Because the Jewish world is one of unity and togetherness, I probably will meet this man again somewhere, sometime. And we will remember this moment we shared together, and maybe as we enjoy a Shabbat dinner together with pride and strength, we will have a clearer understanding of why G-d could let such a tragic event occur. The Exodus of the Jewish people is far from over, yet we have learned to go it hand in hand.

I am reminded of a comment Rose made to me earlier in the day. We were on the subject of growing old, the trauma of watching your body age, the aches and pains and so forth. “I really don’t mind growing old, “ she said to me. “In fact, I really enjoy it. Yes, I am quite happy to age.” I understand her response today as I stare at the museum photographs of the six million. She doesn’t mind growing old because her family and friends never got the opportunity to. This is the essence of the Holocaust.


from the May 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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