I want to tell you about my visit today to Yad Vashem.
I will tell my story awkwardly because words do no good trying to convey what this experience was like for me.
I’ve read some great books about the Holocaust. I definitely won’t say that I’m a “fan” but I am inspired by the stories of the triumph of human beings in the face of horrific evil to choose to keep on living. Frankl, Weisl, Speigelman and others have been like guides for me. I thought they had prepared me for what today would be like.
We were not allowed to take photos inside. This was good. I suspect that the camera would have acted as a filter or buffer to keep the exhibits of this Holocaust museum at a distance. Distance is something we must not have in this instance.
I walked into the Children’s Memorial with my group. It was dark. They have created a space where they want to balance the obliteration of millions with the names and faces of individuals. The death of a million is a number to large to process but as I walked in and saw the face of a little girl who could be my daughter, and then another, and then the face of one who could’ve been my son, it became too personal.
Then we stepped further into the dark, farther into the mystery. I walked through a curtain to find myself in the darkness of night with a series of candles burning at various levels. These candles are reflected in mirrors set in various ways so that a veritable Milky Way of stars fills the darkness that surrounds us. And quietly but insistently the names of the 1 million little ones are being read out in the dark. Slowly. And you realize that each point of light represents a life cut short in the most horrible ways.
Standing there I thought of the words of our Egyptian guide, Ihab, “to kill a man is to kill his generations…” Which of these stars would have painted beauty? Which would have led us into wisdom? Which would have cured our disease? Which would have brought peace between brothers? Which would have composed a inspiring symphony or even just raised a little girl who looked just like her at that age?
And then I thought of Abraham and the promise that had been made to him, that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. And I felt that I was standing in a reverse prayer wherein the children of Abraham had created and collected all these stars into their hands and held their memory up before the God of promise and said together, “What about these stars?”
And God and I were silent.
I’ve got a lot to learn but some things will always be a mystery.