Trip Blog — Day Three

May 27th, 2016

Editor’s Note: Lili Kalish Gersch, Director of Alumni Engagement at Project Interchange, and Dan Elbaum, Assistant Executive Director and Managing Director of Regional Offices at AJC, are in Israel with Project Interchange’s delegation of University Presidents and Chancellors and will be blogging about the delegation’s experiences.

Some quick reflections before we bring in Shabbat in Jerusalem.

As we made our ascent into Jerusalem our guide prepared us for the spirituality of this ancient and holy city.
We spent the morning at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial. Each moving at our own pace throughout the exhibits, we stood with people from all over the world who had come to learn about the Shoah, the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem forces you to confront the impact of the Shoah on an individualistic level. Each Jewish community and person had a different story of suffering. All met the same cruel fate, but the scale of loss and inhumanity must be measured person by person.

After our visit we reflected on the fact that the very mechanisms we identify with as blessings of modern society–science, the rule of law, democracy–were used to such evil ends. We considered the world’s inaction, and were sobered by the reality that our human tendency to look away from suffering persists.
We were heartened, however, by the fact that even in the worst of situations there are always some human beings ready to take impossible risks for the sake of others. We were humbled by the bravery of the righteous Gentiles (or a person who is not Jewish).

As we watched videos of Nazi rallies, each of us was reminded of our own vitriolic political climate and the deep frustration of so many that has manifested itself in frightening nativism. The Shoah has taught us how quickly scapegoating one group for our societal woes can escalate into extreme inhumanity.

As we enter Shabbat we watch a day of peace descend upon Jerusalem. Shabbat shalom.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.