A Very Emotional Day Filled with “Yad’s”

Hands can hurt, help and heal. Today, TBS Israel Tiyul 2012 spent an emotionally exhausting day with many “yad’s.”

First, we went to Yad Lakashish, Lifeline for the Old. This organization turns 50 this year. For 50 years, Yad Lakashish provides a job and sense of self sufficiency for over 300 seniors living in Jerusalem. Each individual is an important part of the organization as an artist. Even for those who never picked up a paint brush, hand saw, or screen for silk painting and paper making, they have been trained and given the opportunity to truly bring beauty to so many amazing items.

We had the opportunity to visit the workshops, briefly speak to the artists from Russia, Iraq, Argentina, and the list goes on. Then of course, it was off to the gift shop. I’m happy to say we supported Yad Lakashish’s project! If you would like to as well, please visit the website and they are more than happy to ship.

Next it was off to Yad Vashem, the Museum of the Shoah (Hebrew for Holocaust). In 2005, the museum reopened after an incredible renovation that completely rebuilt the main museum hall and enhanced many exhibits throughout the campus. Our guide, Mike, was amazing leading us through the exhibit. We wore headphones that allowed us to hear him throughout the museum as he guided us throughout all the rooms. So while we might wander away from him in the room, we were still able to hear his amazing description of the history of the Shoah as it unfolded.

The main hall is now done in such a way that it looks like a large A frame structure. And while you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you are not able to go running through the center hall to the end. You must weave through the entire history.

And while I have been to Yad Vashem many times, including spending a year working in the survivor testimonial archives, I still found myself weeping at the end of the Auschwitz room. As I lay with my head in my hands I felt a gentle hand on my back. Thinking it was someone from the group, I looked up and there was a woman I did not know, but we both shared in this emotional moment. While there were hands that brought such destruction, it was her hand that brought comfort and connection. She was here from Holland and I from California – but miles were erased in an instant.

We concluded our morning at the Children’s Memorial and a brief moment of memorial.

Then it was to Har Herzl, Mt. Herzl, where we visited the graves of Theodore Herzl and many of the great leaders of Israel.

Finally, we concluded the day with an incredible lecture by Paul Liptz, a former professor of mine from the Hebrew Union College and a brilliant social historian. He shared with us the challenges of Israeli society, especially within the economic structure of the country. But while it is so complicated, it is also hopeful in the perspective that Israel is a very young country – 60 years old is really only enough time to be an adolescent trying to navigate her identity and role in the world. (I could really play with this metaphor, but I think I should stop now, it’s late and we have an early morning, so feel free to make your own connections.)

Yes, it’s an early morning tomorrow. We will be up and out early to head south to the Masada and the Dead Sea. Get ready for some floating and muddy pictures.

Laila tov!
Rabbi Heidi Cohen

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