Sadly today is our last day in Israel. It was another free day (so glad Father planned the free days towards the end of the trip) so Mark and I headed to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The light rail stop for Yad Vashem is the last one on the line (Mt. Herzl) so we got to see more of Jerusalem along the way. Once you get off the light rail, its about a 10 minute walk to the museum. Admission is free for individuals but there is a fee for groups...so I would limit going with at most four people. They do have audio guides for hire at the visitor center but we just opted to wing it.
They don't allow photos once inside the museum itself so this is the only photo I was able to take in the visitors center. This hand-knitted shirt was left by Marcel Levi's mother in 1943 with a neighbor for safekeeping when the family was deported from Greece to Auschwitz. Marcel is the only survivor from his family as all were killed in Auschwitz. When he was liberated by the US Army from Dachau, he returned to Greece where he received the shirt and a few other possessions. In 1948, Marcel immigrated to the Land of Israel where he fought in the War of Independence.
While Yad Vashem was moving, I prefer the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. I didn't feel as though I could get a connection with the people and stories while walking through Yad Vashem. The exhibits in DC resonated more with me and left me feeling sad and angry. When I left Yad Vashem, I only felt as though I had been to a museum about a time in history.
View from Yad Vashem...
After Yad Vashem, we made our way back to the light rail with the plan to go back to Notre Dame and have lunch then check out an exhibit we heard was pretty cool. The light rail attendant told us to get off at the Jaffa stop and while making our way to Notre Dame, we stumbled across BurgersBar and had to stop. The place was packed with police and military so we figured it had to be good. While we waited on line, I asked one of the police officers if it was good and gave it a big thumbs up. The other thing going for the spot was they had outdoor seating so we could do some people watching (until the most wretched smell came over the area as we had just finished eating). I must say it was one dang good burger...especially the garlic aioli that came with it.
I love it when I am traveling with someone that isn't attached to plans and can just go with the flow. After we finished eating, we decided to forego Notre Dame and just wander around and find our way back to the hotel. We ended up taking one last walk through the Old City and while walking through streets, a vendor started talking to us and asked where we were from. When we said we were from the States, he asked if we could spell a word for him as he wanted to make sure he spelled it correctly. So we went into his store and Mark wrote out expanding for him. Turns out he is opening store number 3...has one in the Christian Quarter, one in the Jewish Quarter and one in the Muslim Quarter. He asked if we were enjoying our time in Israel and we said we were but we were sad as we were leaving tonight.
He told me to sit down and he would make me some earrings as a thank you for helping him. So, I sat down and watched him make these earrings. While doing so, I learned he is the 4th generation to own these stores and when he has a son it will go to him. He was a handsome Armenian...25, young and strong as he told me. This is definitely an experience I will not forget and a great end to a wonderful trip.
A full moon bid us adieu as we arrived at our farewell dinner en route to Ben Gurion Airport. This has been an amazing adventure and I am so blessed to have been able to make this pilgrimage with this group. There were many serendipitous moments along the journey and I'm so thankful for the friendships that have come from this experience. Before leaving for Israel, people told me this would be life changing for me. I must admit I don't leave Israel feeling as though I had one of those "earth-shattering, my life is forever changed" experiences. I think perhaps for me it is more subtle and something that as I return and continue to grow in my faith, reflect on some of the conversations had and live life, I will say "the seed for this was planted in Israel."
Shalom and Toda Raba Israel!