Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yad Vashem and Machena Yehuda

Walking the History Museum at Yad Vashem with My 14 Year Old Son

I kept looking for his red shirt
he was either ahead of me or behind me
reading or watching
often we sat together and listened
to the first hand accounts of the survivors
the horrors they spoke of, the horrors they survived
the last time they saw their mothers
or falling into a pit of rifled to death bodies
and hours later crawling out alive
talking of their families that didn't make it
of being lone survivors
of not wanting to have children,
of having children, but never being able to tell them

we were sitting next to each other when
the bulldozer came shoveling hundreds,
maybe thousands of dead bodies into pit after pit
Micah watched intently, agape, quietly horrified

he mentioned it to me as we walked to the bus
and I said people are capable of doing very horrible things
people can be very very weak and become followers
people are capable of doing very horrible things...
that's what I said,

I then said, lets go to Machena Yehuda, the Jewish Market,
with the hustle and bustle
street vendors selling pita, fruit, spices, baklava and candy

after breakfast we caught a taxi to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum,
and after our three hour visit we headed to Machena Yehuda, the Jewish Market...

Micah and I went to Itzik's Place down the street from the hotel, we had scouted it out the other day, for a very late breakfast this morning. Micah woke up some time after 11 and we didn't leave the hotel till almost noon. While Micah slept I read and wrote and drank tea. After finally settling on the perfect table outside in the shade, it didn't seem quite as hot today, I went next door to the fruit market and bought us each a couple of fresh figs, one as an appetizer and one for dessert. And so we enjoyed a quiet slow breakfast with a latte and some oj. The Israeli breakfast of choice is Shatsuka, served in a hot frying pan, 3 over medium eggs cook themselves ontop of a very hot cheesy, tomato, onion and pepper thick sauce like base with fresh garlic rye and a salad. Micah had an enormous omlette sandwich with a salad and so we sat there for an hour and enjoyed a slow pace we hoped to keep for at least the rest of today. We watched the fruit and veggie purveyor unroll his awning and for the most part ate slowly and talked about Israel, and our past few days.

It appears the combination of air conditioning, swimming, and walking walking walking in the heat has given me a cold with a cough, so I'm drinking lots of tea at the hotel, it's free and always available.

We arrived by taxi to Yad Vashem, a little bit before 2. It has been completely redone and the history of the holocaust is reported very thoroughly and intensely in a cross media approach, with films, first hand interviews, quotes, diary entries from victims,artifacts and explanations. The museum is set up as a path that criss crosses a center hallway, with crooks and crannies, that basically leads you along a historical timeline of terror and horror.

The highlights, well reallyI should say lowlights were the videos of the interviews of Holocaust survivors telling their stories somehow without breaking down, amidst the historical background of their tearful reports very very moving.

Towards the end of the museum, an interview is played while on a much bigger screen a film shows a bulldozer pushing hundreds, maybe thousands of bodies into pit after pit, site after site while the numbers of how many bodies is flashed next to this screen.

Micah, sitting next to me,watched agape, quietly horrified.

We left the museum at closing time, 5 pm and walked up Mount Herzl to the bus that I figured was the right bus to Machena Yehuda, the Jewish open air market near city center. We followed other backpackers straight to the very crowded rush hour bus, but we pushed our way on. Micah ended up with a first row seat and I got pushed down the middle of the bus, holding on as the bus jerked back and forth along the crazy stop and go traffic.

Looking out the window I suddenly saw the market, I asked an old man getting off "Machena Yehuda? Po? (here)? "Cayn (yes)" "Micah," I yelled, "Let's get off." "Yeah, O.K." We got off easily, he in the front, me in the back and Micah who really does pay attention said I thought that we might want to get off there so I was looking for you and you yelled and we got off!

The market was full of life, barkers of fresh pita, cakes, baklava, halavah (a free sample, yum), fresh fruit, dried fruit, spices, candy, we walked up and down one narrow market street around to another much wider pedestrian only market street, we got falafels enticed by a taste, falafel in a pita with hummus and salad and pickles and eggplant and zucchini topped with french fries and tahini. We found some tables and sat and ate as our pitas almost fell apart, we walked a bit more, took pictures, took it easy and then Micah navigated us to city center and the bus home where we have holed in for the night, catching up on needed rest, tomorrow we pick up a car and who knows what we will do....

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