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Reflection on Yad VaShem

By Alice Podolsky

I remember my mother dropping me off at Hebrew School when I was about 10 years old and telling me something that I will never forget. She told me that people will look at me, with my blue eyes and (previously) blonde hair, and casually say anti-Semitic things…Not knowing that I, a seemingly Arian girl, was a Jew. She explained to me that I had a choice. I had a choice to either sit idly by—taking advantage of my appearance that gave me the privilege to do so—OR I could stand up and say “I’m Jewish and what you’re saying is not right.” From a young age, the choice seemed obvious and implied—I had to stand up. After visiting Yad Vashem, getting to know the soldiers, and simply being in this amazing country, I truly felt the impact of that conversation with my mother.

The word that kept coming to my mind during our group’s powerful discussion the night before our visit to Yad Vashem was responsibility.

Responsibility to be a proud of our heritage.

Responsibility to hear survivors speak. Responsibility to share these stories with my children.

Responsibility to visit Holocaust museums whenever I get the chance.

Responsibility to stand up.

If the Nazis had succeeded in their intentions, none of Us would be here to today. Every Jew is a survivor of the Holocaust, whether we acknowledge it or not. Everyday we are reminded that humans have the capacity to commit these kinds of acts of terror and destruction that the Jews faced during the Holocaust, and we also know that people today still wish for the death of every last one of us. So what is our responsibility now? To make sure this never happens again, and that starts with standing up.

After our group discussion, I walked back to my room and immediately put my Star of David necklace on. I am a Jew. I am a proud Jew. And I have a responsibility to show that I am a Jew and defend my people because no one did when it mattered.

Day 5 Morning: Geopolitical Tour

On Sunday morning, day 5 of our trip, we were treated to an interesting tour and discussion on the geopolitics of Jerusalem. We experienced an absolutely spectacular view of Jerusalem from various high points surrounding the city, as seen in the photos below. Our official tour guide was sick and unfortunately couldn’t make it, but our trip guide Moki did a fantastic job giving us the basic history and political realities of Jerusalem in the modern state of Israel. We discussed the location of the Green Line and the stances of the Israeli government, the United States, and the United Nations on that line and the status of Jerusalem. We also discussed the Israelis who live over the Green Line and their justification for doing so, along with the general perception of their situation among Israelis, Arabs, and the world. One particularly interesting discussion surrounded the laws about rights to purchase/rent property for Jews and Arabs in towns that are predominantly the other group. Additionally, we had the opportunity to see Bethlehem from afar and the security fence/wall which sparked a valuable discussion about the reasons the barrier is up, why it is criticized so much, and various viewpoints about its future. Learning the history of the eternal Jewish capital of Jerusalem and the current political discussions regarding it was a very valuable experience that we will not forget.

— Matthew Stein