It is impossible to describe the overwhelming emotional nature of Yad Vashem. The phrase Yad Vashem comes for a biblical passage of Isaiah 56:5, "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall never be cut off."
Yad Vashem is Israel's Holocaust Memorial, Museum, and research center. But it is so much more than that, it is the lasting embodiment of the horrors of evil as well as the dedicated legacy to remember all those 6 million Jews who were annihilated simply because they were Jewish.
There is a new Historical Museum, which was constructed since I was last at Yad Vashem. Since my last visit to Yad Vashem I have also visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles as well as the United States National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Each one of these museums have powerful stories to tell. But I have not been this affected by them in a long long time.
We were guided through by Mike, whose knowledge of all of Israel and of the Holocaust narrative is simply astounding. One element he emphasized that particularly impacted me was that unlike all other genocides, which are equally horrific, its that this is the only one set out to completely annihilate one people, everywhere, not just in the borders of any one particular country.
There is no making sense of the Holocaust. There is no understanding. All we can do is provide context to be able to see in ourselves the broader narrative that made such events possible. And all we can do is cherish those whose lives were cut short, many of whom we do not even know there names.
As of today, approximately 4.5 million victims have been identified. This effort was greatly aided with the fall of the former Soviet Union and access to its records.
Of course the most powerful and moving part of the memorial is the Children's Memorial. Approximately 1.5 million victims of the Holocaust were children. It is a silent memorial where a small number of candles are reflected towards infinity to create a sense of all of the lights that were extinguished.
They say the 11th Commandment is to never forget! The Holocaust is the most well documented event in all of human history. As we say with a sense of irony, "at least the Germans were excellent at record keeping."
To those who would deny the Holocaust, may their names always burn in places where the most evil suffer. Yes I know we Jews do not believe in the classic sense of Hell. But these voices were forever silenced, and only we are left to testify.
I believe that many deniers really don't care about the Holocaust at all, but instead in some perverse way believe that by denying it, they can delegitimize the State of Israel. Which they mistakenly believe was the impetus for the founding of Israel. That somehow the world felt guilty. The truth is, Israel was going to exist regardless of the Holocaust. And if only it had existed at the time, then perhaps Yad Vashem would not need to stand today.
I almost never cry. But on this day I did.
We said Kaddish together as a group. Because what else can you do?