It was a very moving moment. At the train platform at Auschwitz, a group of people draped in the Israeli flag spent some time here, on the tracks. They sang, embraced each other, cried, and left behind the candles. To be at Auschwitz is overwhelming and you don't know quite what to feel or do to take it all in. Watching people mourn their loved ones made it much more of a tangible experience. While Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel's stories popped in my head, the survivors and their pain, along with the clear connection to Israel's fight, was so vivid on that hot July morning.
A few years ago I started teaching the Arab-Israeli conflict to my senior IB World History class, and it was right after a summer trip to Israel with the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teacher’s Program http://www.hajrtp.org/index.html. Teaching the situation in the Middle East is difficult. I often have Arab students in my class who have family in the midst of the situation, and occasionally I also have Jewish students who come at it from a different angle, so it is important to let the students take charge of the learning. We read The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, an amazing story that teaches the history of the complex conflict, while telling the true story of a Palestinian family & a Jewish family who occupied the same home at different times. We also watch an excellent documentary entitled Promises, which traces the lives of seven children on both sides of the conflict. Each child’s family comes from a different perspective, so it is valuable in conveying that there are not only two sides, but several valid points of view. I also recommend seeing Paradise Now and The Lemon Tree (which has nothing to do with the book) for more insight.
Going to Israel was an amazing experience. On the one hand, I felt the emotion behind Holocaust survivors to fight for protection from anti-Semitism, for there to be a safe place for them, and a place where they can practice their beliefs in the open, with pride. However, it was hard to understand the wall surrounding Jerusalem—a barrier. I have a hard time with barriers, especially physical ones. It was also powerful to see Muslims, Christians, Jews, and secular, non-religious people living in harmony in a holy city with so much history. It is possible for there to be peace.
Friends of mine lived in Jerusalem for a couple of years. I had a chance to see them briefly, while I was there. They were not Jewish, and as we sat on a bench eating ice cream, they shared the woes of finding an apartment to rent since they did not practice kosher eating. When they returned to the States, I remember Peter telling my husband that he was having a hard time re-adjusting. He felt guilty for the ease in going about his day. No one cared what religion he was, what he was wearing, or much else. In Israel, this determines everything.
I am so thankful for the thoughtlessness that we have in going about our day, but I am also glad that I had a glimpse, a moment merely, of seeing something else.
All photos were taken by me on my trip to Poland and Israel. 1) Auschwitz 2) Jerusalem 3) Jews dancing at night in Jerusalem with loud Jewish music meets techno 4) Guns being guarded outside of a Holocaust Museum outside Nahariya. It is mandatory to serve in the Israeli military, and part of that service includes Holocaust education. 5) Kibbutz outside of Nahariya