July 16th – Mt Herzl, Yad Vashem and Bnai Mitzvah

What an intense day.
We started the day at Mt. Herzl/Har Hazikaron, Israel’s national and military cemetery. It’s a beautiful location and we could feel the love and care that had been put into its construction. We started at the grave of Theodore Herzl where we each put a rock on top of his tombstone to show respect. I have the greatest respect for Herzl, and we again got into the discussion about whether we should have taken Uganda. Amazingly enough some people said we should have said yes (if we couldn’t have Israel). I was shocked. Israel isn’t just a place, it’s where we belong.
We also passed by the graves of Golda Meir, Teddy Kolek, Yitzhak Rabin etc. Our tour guide took us into the military portion of the cemetery and that’s where we all got emotional. For a few reasons. First, almost every tombstone displayed the age of a soldier between 18-23. These people were not much older than us. The guide then pointed out that all of the tombstones for the privates, generals and chief commanders were all the same size. He told us that this is because they all had to serve and they all died for their country and thus seniority does not determine the size of their graves.
Joe Getzoff Photos - 18.preview
Next we went to Yad Vashem. I remember the last time I went to Yad Vashem very vividly, it was 10 years ago and I remember that my entire family (me included) got incredibly emotional. I’ve always remembered DC’s Holocaust Museum as being geared towards Americans with historical facts that lacked the emotion that a museum made by Jews for Jews (Yad Vashem) had. This time when I went, the entire place was packed both because it was Tisha B’av and there were hundreds of Maccabeans. Our tour guide took us through the museum at quite a quick pace and it didn’t create much of an emotional response for me. I remember so many more footage/pictures from the Nazi archives (specifically the torture) as well as depictions of Nazi propaganda (newspapers, board games, video clips etc). Yad Vashem has been redone from its 1993 version so that it seems now to be geared more toward teaching everyone. I’m not saying that it’s a bad design; I just prefer the more emotional one.
President of the European Parliament Buzek looks at pictures of Jews killed in the Holocaust during a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
That night we went to a Bnai Mitzvah ceremony at this gorgeous venue and cheered as many people went through a communal Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. It was actually very beautiful and seemed to be meaningful for a lot of people. I sat next to the Women’s Volleyball coach who kept on trying to set my buddy Norm and I up with one of his pretty female volleyball players. It felt so Jewish. What a Yente. We went inside and all ate a massive feast after the Bnai Mitzvah ceremony. None of us have been able to understand how they have been able to feed us so well when there are 1,100 of us. Seriously, the food has been incredible. Great night.
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However, he did not detract from the beautiful Bnai Mitzvah ceremony…or all the good lookin Jews ; )
At night we headed back to our room and finished Pineapple Express. Great movie. Great day.