JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 6 – KKL/JNF Headquaters to Yad Vashem and then Sderot!
Reflections from Vaucluse Public School NSW and Mount Scopus Memorial College GBH VIC
Tammy Schwartz – Vaucluse Public School NSW
Today was an incredibly moving and powerful day for us all. We left the hotel with pockets full of tissues, preparing ourselves for what was to come. However, no tissues or mental preparation could brace us for the emotional journey that lay ahead.
After a quick photo pit-stop at the KKL-JNF headquarters, we travelled to the slopes of the Mount of Remembrance where sits Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial.
To say that this museum is one of the most important places to visit in Israel would be an understatement. Through the chilling combination of photographs, films and documents, we remembered. Through the letters, works of art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos, we remembered. Through the stories that we heard, read, saw and shared amongst our group members, we remembered. These powerful memories will stay with us all for the rest of our lives and we have no doubt that they will be shared with our children, partners and families upon returning home.
Yad Vashem portrayed the true scale and impact of the Holocaust. It told us of the six million brutally murdered just because they were Jews. However, in the words of our guide, we were encouraged to “focus not on how the Jews died, but how they lived and how they struggled.” Even sitting here on the bus and reflecting on the stories and images is bringing tears to both of our eyes. Through our shared emotions we made sure to also focus on the heroism of the Jews and righteous gentiles of the period. We joined as a group and the special connections we have made over the last few days helped us to feel united as one.
We ended the day with a talk from the teachers of Shaar HaNegev. After a long day full of emotional and inspiring stories, it was uplifting to bring the day to a close by learning together with these fantastic educators. We enjoyed a performance by the school’s talented choir, a real treat for the evening! We met Yaakov, the school’s headmaster, who explained how Shaar HaNegev is unique in many ways. It is an incredibly resilient school. Yaakov opened our eyes to how a school can overcome adversity and thrive in the pressure cooker of the Northern Negev.
Carrie Parratt – Psychologist – Mount Scopus Memorial College – Gandel Besen VIC
Our guide talked about the silence, the indifference & the apathy that was the Holocaust.
I appreciated that she started with the 2,000 years of Jewish history and cultural life before the Holocaust to make sure this is not forgotten. When teaching about the Holocaust Liz suggested to focus on what was lost 1st – it happened to real people; this is important to truly empathise & to give it a human face.
The reference to culture rang true with the quote, “Where books are burnt, humans are in danger of burning too.” Liz explained that the Nazi rhetoric in 1933 continued to get worse & worse & the world failed to act.
Today, we got a glimpse of the people behind the stars & the tattoos. Asking the question: “What would you take in 1 suitcase for your whole family?” made me think of what a difficult choice this would be.
The theme of choice came through again & again today as we were reminded that even if there was a chance of escape, there was nowhere to run, the Jews had no choice. Those who did this made choices!
We were told about the youth resistance and how this brought hope & dignity to those with the strength & the audacity to fight back. The importance of teaching children about this aspect of the Holocaust was emphasised.
Teaching about the righteous people was also a focus of today’s session. This was all about restoring faith in Humanity, coming back to life & the anguish of being liberated but not yet free (the paradox of the Jew – Abraham Klausner).
We were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we were reminded of the rebuilding of lives; the hope, the triumph that comes from the children & the children’s children!
Next we were taken to KKL – JNF Park of courage. We were exposed to the unease of what the people of Sderot feel on an everyday basis. We were told that when the siren goes off, they need to calculate their steps as they have only 15 seconds to look for a wall, duck & pray. It was confronting & quite surreal to walk through the children’s playground & to see the security shelter right there.
We met the Rabbi’s of the town & then had the pleasure of listening to Mayor Alon Davidi. He challenged our sense of security & led us to see the stamina & resilience of the people who live in his city. He also shared stories of those who now struggle with post traumatic stress & we heard of the work of the Resilience Centre & the support his youngest daughter has received from animal therapy.