Today was a relatively light day of activity. In the morning, we took in two museums in Jerusalem and then had a free afternoon. I'm guessing the day was anything but light there in Cubs' Town!
This morning we visited Yad Vashem--The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is an excellent museum. It draws you into the narrative history of the rise of Nazi Germany and the evolution of the systematic, calculated murder of an entire people. "Yad Vashem" means, "a place specifically to memorialize." According to the mission statement of the museum, "As the Jewish people's living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning to future generations."
In past years, I have visited Auschwitz, Dachau, and the "Warsaw Ghetto," and each time I am struck by the unfathomable capacity of human beings to perpetrate evil on their neighbors. The countless individuals required to carry out the untold number of orders that add up to this hideous nightmare we call the Holocaust defies comprehension. Which is why places like Yad Vashem are so crucial. What is incomprehensible, unthinkable soon becomes unbelievable.
The pressing questions for me as I wandered the gardens of the museum after walking through its exhibits were: "What is the meaning this remembrance must impart to future generations? What does it mean to remember this well? What does such remembrance require of us in this generation?" Hitler rose to power as part of a political process. His racist, hyper-nationalistic rhetoric struck a chord among the people of Germany that had consequences beyond anyone's prediction. Words matter. Leadership matters. Politics matters...
Upon leaving Yad Vashem, we made our way to the Israel Museum. There we overlooked the incredible model (50:1) of the city of Jerusalem as it existed in 66 CE. With Steve's guidance, we could now visualize all that we had been seeing over the previous days in our visits to Jerusalem. We then walked through the Shrine of the Book that tells the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls and where we could actually see portions of the scrolls on display. Tomorrow, we will be going to Qumran which was where the scrolls were discovered by accident by a shepherd boy in 1946.
We then wandered through the amazing collection of antiquities on exhibit in the rest of the museum. I'll mention one. In 1979, a sliver amulet was found in a burial cave in Jerusalem by Gabriel Barkay (I met him on our last trip to here). The amulet contained a tiny scroll (see picture below--about 5" long) on which was inscribed the Priestly Blessing found in Numbers 6: 24-26: "The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace." Dating back to 700 BCE, it is the oldest inscription from the Hebrew Bible ever found--the oldest mention of the Hebrew name for God (YHWH) outside of the Bible. The inscription predates all other written texts by 400 years.
As I walked out of the hotel later this afternoon the sun was setting and I remembered that Sabbath was about to dawn. Across the street, families were streaming into The Jerusalem Great Synagogue--children skipping along the sidewalks as they went. At some point in that service, I was sure the Priestly Blessing would be spoken yet again: "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace." Amen.