yad vashem…

“And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a “yad vashem”)… that shall not be cut off.” ~ Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5

According to their website:  “As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.”

yad vashem is the holocaust museum in Jerusalem.  we went there at the end of a long day.  i knew it would be emotional for me.  there were a number of reasons for that.  one was that i had already been to the holocaust museum in washington, d.c. and felt a great deal of pain as i walked through it.  secondly, being in israel, i was feeling deeply connected to the Jews.  the main reason, however, that i knew it would be so hard on my heart was due to a couple that i love.  as i made my home in nashville, i fell in love with a couple here.  they have become like best friends/awesome aunt and uncle.  they are gifts to me…their generosity, laughter, wisdom, food, time and kindness.  they love me so well.  and i am humbled and eternally grateful for them.  they are Jewish…and both sets of their parents are holocaust survivors.  so, i have felt more and more tied to the Jews through my love and relationship with them. 

as i walked toward the front doors of yad vashem, i was very aware of the sound.  i was walking with our entire group on wooden planks that made a bridge to the front door.  my heart wondered if that was a similar sound to the sound of the Jews leaving the train cars.  my eyes welled with tears.  as i walked slowly through the museum, i felt something building in my chest.  it was pain…in the form of a question.  i saw statistics (i can’t remember the specifics) that told about how a large majority of hitler’s main men had doctorates….lots of them in religion…some in psychology.  i have a doctorate.  and, i got it from a religious school.  i hated the feeling of having anything similar to the men of the 3rd reich.  i felt nauseous.  there was another piece of information that fed into my building question.  when the Jews returned after the war to a town in poland, a villager asked one of them,

“what…they didn’t kill all of you?”

i couldn’t read any more.  i found the exit.  i breathed in the air that blows up the hill to that door. 

the breeze blew up and this view welcomed me…

i breathed deep…i cried.  the question that had been building spoke to my soul….

“what would i have done?  would i have been standing in the streets cheering for hitler?  would i have died for the Jews around me?  or…would i have stayed silent?” 

i felt like i knew myself well enough to know that i wouldn’t have aligned myself with the evil of that man and those who followed him.  but, i don’t know if i would have laid down my own life.  i don’t know if i would have had the courage to stand up and speak.  i HOPE and PRAY that i would have spoken up…for truth…for the love of God that lives in me.  but, to be honest, i just don’t know…and that is painful.

i didn’t know how to handle the pain of that question.  so, i walked around the grounds until i found the tree that had been planted in honor of Corrie Ten Boom.  i sat on the ground, in front of her tree, for about an hour.  i prayed for my precious couple.  i told God how grateful i am for them, and how i hoped that i would have saved their family members if i could have.  if i had been there, that i would not have been silent. i cried.  i grieved for the loss of all of those Jews and all of those who stood next to them. i was aware and fearful of the evil that can grow in the heart of a human.  

as i reflect on it now, i wonder what i am keeping silent about in my present life.  what is it that i need to speak out about?  what evil in the world am i choosing not to see?  how do i fight for the lives and hearts of those around me?  how do i love well? 

how, now, will i live? 


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