For the third day in a row Dan had a tuna fish sandwich for breakfast. I enjoyed a banana and oatmeal smothered in candied pecans. The surprises on the buffet line this morning were fried noodles, a bowl of roasted garlic, and dauphinoise potatoes.
Our morning started with a ride further into the slick modern part of town. Tall buildings with clean lines were built of the same cream colored stone as the Old City. I’m not sure if it is sandstone, limestone, or something else, but it is referred to as Jerusalem stone. Hills are the predominate landscape here, so there were always pretty vistas. The wide streets allow plenty of room for the tram. We were headed to Mount Herzl on the west side of the city. We passed the national military cemetery where, Gabi commented, way too many young people are buried. Victims of Israel’s many conflicts. Our destination was Yad Vashem where we visited the Holocaust History Museum.
We had an hour and half to appreciate this wonderful tribute to those murdered in the Holocaust. The museum, made of cold concrete, was designed to be austere with just enough light coming in from the top to give hope. Our guide did a terrific job of explaining the hows and whys of the rise of the Nazi party and touched on the apathy of the majority of Germans who did not participate in the election that gave Hitler enough votes to become chancellor. We were challenged to consider the possibility that the residents in locations where Jews were persecuted might be partially culpable for this mass destruction by their silent cooperation and in some cases participation. Countries who refused Jews desperate to flee Europe might also consider sharing some of the shame. In no way was our guide a fan of Hitler, nor did he speak in his favor, he just suggested we might take a wider view of how an unlikely situation got unimaginably out of hand.
Our guide explained that a main focus of the museum is putting faces and stories to names. A round number of those slaughtered comes off as an atrocious statistic, but faces, stories, hometowns, ages, and family histories honor those lost and make the tragedy a little more real, a whole lot more tragic. The last exhibit in the museum is a giant lampshade-shaped ceiling filled with pictures of individual men, women, and children. This corridor leads to a room with a computer bank where descendants and friends can read about those lost as well as register a story from their family’s history.
There is an Avenue of the Righteous on the grounds of Yad Vashem that honors Christians who helped Jews during the dark time of the Holocaust. We did not have time to check it out, but what a wonderful idea!
After the sobering overview of those lost to the Holocaust, we went to the Israel Museum for two spectacular happy things. The more spectacular was the Shrine of the Book, a small museum built as a repository for the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947. The unique white dome of the museum looks a bit like the top of a tagine but actually embodies the lids of the jars in which the first scrolls were found.
The second fun thing was the remarkable scale model of ancient Jerusalem as it was in 66 AD. It clearly demonstrates how the temple completely overshadowed the entire city. It was said that it took 10 men to hug one of the gigantic columns inside the walls of the temple. It was fun to locate the gates we have already come in and out of. We also traced the stations of the cross on what is now Via Dolorosa.
A late lunch in the form of a tasting tour ended the official part of the day. Chef Iris met our group at the bustling Machane Yehuda Market where she took us to some of her favorite food stalls where we sampled everything from bread to juice to imported cheese and butter to the best ever chocolate rugelach. I saw an etrog for the first time. Think lemon with bad skin.
Sandy and Alan invited us to join them for tea at the 100 year old American Colony Hotel. We decided if it was good enough for Lawrence of Arabia, Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Gere then it was good enough for us. We explored the beautiful grounds and then settled in for tea sandwiches, scones, and fresh figs with whipped cream.
… Trivia …
Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 AD.