Yad Vashem. I knew it would be an emotional experience as I anticipated the tour itinerary for the Israel trip. I didn’t expect how personal it became.
I stared at the Children’s Memorial, resembling children lined up for a class photo. But this photo is different. Every pillar – child – is cut off.
Each life cut short.
As I walked into the exhibition area, my eyes adjusted to the darkness – or so I thought. I stood in front of a large wall of photos and stared into the eyes of children who didn’t live through the Holocaust. I was the one who was alive. I was breathing. My heart was beating. And yet, the dead children’s eyes bore into me. For a moment, I died within the life in the children’s eyes.
I turned and walked into an even darker room – so dark that my eyes couldn’t adjust this time. I listened to names being read in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. Each name was a child who didn’t live through the Holocaust. My feet shuffled through the darkness. Our group was in a single file, and as our feet shuffled in the blinding darkness, I thought of those who shuffled into railroad cars, barracks, and incinerators, blinded by the lack of light, lack of choice, lack of compassion. The difference? I stepped out of the darkness and into the light.
A brief respite and then it was time to continue through the main museum. After watching old movie footage for a few minutes, I walked by myself to a large photo behind a display of smaller photos: photos of people enjoying everyday life, smiling, connecting, laughing. My eyes were drawn to the large wall photo. As my mind made sense of the pile of entangled, distorted bodies, I stared into one person’s eyes. Not eyes exactly, but undistinguished sockets. I strained to see a hint of life – like I saw in the children’s eyes.
And I thought: That could be me.
I reluctantly turned away. I thought by standing there a bit longer, I’d pay more tribute. Then I realized there was nothing I could do about the reality of the past…except continue to move into the future, remembering the past to let it make a difference as the future unfolds.
I walked through several displays, letting the words and photos seep into me. I turned a corner and stood before a wall splattered with red…a display of Hitler and his Nazi regime. I stood in a red shirt and army green pants.
I thought: That could be me.
Have you ever heard how to eat an elephant? …One bite at a time.
You’re one choice away. You can remember or forget. Persevere or stick. Grow or die. Stand up or sit down. Speak up or shut up.
If people choose to do what God wants, they will know that my teaching comes from God and not from me. John 7:17
Stare into God’s eyes. What does he want you to choose today? Shuffle through the darkness. Bask in God’s light. Struggle through the hate. Find comfort in God’s love.
Each choice impacts the next. Consider the choices you’re making today. Consider the next choice you make.
He has a beautiful view waiting for you. Here’s a sneak peek: the view as I exited Yad Vashem.