Halls of the Holocaust

We began our morning with a breath of fresh air after our drive to West Jerusalem. The trip wasn’t as long as it would have been due to President Trump’s anticipated arrival in the city, you would feel as if it was Saturday and not the beginning of another work week.

With everyone refraining from leaving their homes, the park awaiting us was rather quiet with a few Israeli soldiers having their morning pick me up on the nicely trimmed edges of the greenery around us. Mount Herzl Park, commonly known as the father of Zionism beginning with his book, “The Jewish State” which further led to Herzl’s later establishment of the World Zionist Organization. This however, was not just any park in the name of a popular figure. This park beyond its Hebrew and menorah shaped shrubbery holds an underlying message for its visitors, which I soon came to uncover.

The park is not one for morning picnics, but one of remembrance. The upper level you find memorials and graves of key figures in the history of Israel, not only the father of Zionism himself but also notable leaders of the state as well as the various fallen soldiers. We were informed that despite the emptiness of a Monday morning, the park is a key location for the Memorial Day, held a day prior to independence celebrations to commemorate those, which have, and continue to make the existence of the state possible. However, this is not the only purposeful position of two key events by the Israelis.

We continued our journey to the Holocaust museum through what is known as the Connection Path which by its name is not only a physical connection between Mount Herzl Park, but one eliciting an emotional connection as well between the modern day fight for Israel and what we would soon witness as the historical fight for a Jewish right to life. Our guide shared that as a solider he was brought here many times and described the two sights as an illustration of the importance of national sacrifice into the national psyche of Israelis, especially those serving in the military.

The Connection Path at first appeared like any descending dirt path but every twenty or so steps you would fine a towering sign marking a key triumph leading up to Israel’s state establishment, described on the bottom sign as, “a symbolic voyage in time from catastrophe to rebirth” and further as, “a route to redemption” of the Jewish people. Our next stop as you may guess would be a vivid portrayal of why many today argue such a voyage was needed.

Last sign of Connecting Path

The Holocaust museum is emotional to say the least. The building itself is dark and shaped like a cement pyramid only shedding a sliver of light from the top windows. It makes you feel as if you cannot escape, which is the point, further executed though the intentional snaking of the exhibits forcing visitors to physically walk through the whole museum prior to exiting. We all know the atrocities committed and can imagine the despicable occurrences highlighted throughout the museum, what I was paying attention to however, was how the museum works to shape the narrative of Israel.

Front of the Holocaust Museum

A few things I found interesting was first the intentional absence of the word “Palestine” in which I only twice, once on an old German board game in which the end goal was to “send Jews to Palestine” and the second in a personal anecdote by a Holocaust survivor. In all other instances the land was referred to, “The Land of Israel (British Mandate)” completely leaving out any notion of the existence of Palestine. Another interesting yet assumable character of the museum is the organization. Which logistically is organized chronologically beginning with pre war times and growing discrimination, other-ization, and anti Semitism into the war period and then at the very end, as you may have already guessed, the establishment of Israel as the solution or happy ending rather the years of massacre and ethic cleansing of Jews. It’s hard not to see the connections in the early parts of the museums with Jewish de-humanization prior, daily humiliation practices, hatred by the local population, and eventually, expulsion from the only land and life they knew. Anecdotes saying, “They’re kicking us out of out land, but where will I go?” Does this not sound familiar?

When a visitor finally escapes the physical and emotional darkness of the memorial museum they are greeted a similar breath of fresh air we experienced earlier in the morning, but this time with a view overlooking the beautiful landscape of what some may now know as the homeland and safe haven for the Jews.

But may I dare ask, “what about the Palestinians? Their homeland?” It seems rather selfish and even heartless to ask after the museum experience, believe me. As a human it is hard not to leave with a “happy ending feeling” upon exiting, even enough to drop a $10 or $20 in the donation box, but can’t we still be critical? To me, such pre conditions experienced by the Jews seemed as if they were being relived by the Palestinians within the same land that is portrayed as a sanctuary and preservation for livelihoods Wouldn’t one assume compassion by a population who knows first hand the feeling of persecution and the absence of basic human needs?

Furthermore, If such visits are necessary for all Israeli school children (including Arabs) should the Nakba not be too, acknowledging the Palestinians who also were sacrificed in the establishment of a Jewish State? My answer is yes, but for many the answer is no. The Palestinians are not important in this narrative, not when winning over the emotional hearts of visitors. I hope one day we can find the same compassion for the Arabs, so that they too can wake up on a Monday morning and take in a carefree breath of fresh air.

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