Sunday, July 31, 2011

Museum Tours

I finished up my first summer session last Monday. The final exam took me five hours to complete. I was very brain dead when I got back to my dorm that afternoon. I had the rest of this past week off and I've been enjoying doing nothing. I've been reading a lot for fun. This Tuesday I start my second Summer session which will be another level of modern Hebrew.

I did two museum tours in July that I haven't told you about yet. This is a kind of catching up post before I start my next class and don't have time to post again.

On July 12th I visited the Holocaust memorial museum.  There were no pictures allowed inside. This picture is looking back at the entrance. It is a quote from the Bible "I will put my breath into you, and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil" Ezekiel 37:14

This was a difficult museum to visit. I thought they did a good job honoring the victims. It was a very moving experience. Lining the walkway to the museum is the Path of the Righteous on either side there are trees planted honoring the non-Jews that risked their lives to save the Jewish people. The building itself is modern in architecture with barren concrete walls. The building is underground symbolizing the darkness of what happened. There is no straight path through the museum it zig zags back and forth. You can see the light at the end of the hallway but you can't reach it without visiting all of the rooms. Our tour was about 2 and a half hours but I think I could easily have spent more time there. I thought they did a good job explaining how the Holocaust began. The first step was burning of books, the rejecting of ideas that did not match their own.

I'm not sure I have the words to describe my experience in this museum. It was very moving and something that I think everyone has to experience for themselves. At one point they had a wall with pictures of 15 men who orchestrated the Final Solution. It was frightening to look at these men who looked so ordinary. But what also struck me was how many of them were doctors, men of higher education. Ordinarily the higher education you have the more tolerant you become but that was not the case here.

In the last room is round with shelves from floor to ceiling they contain the stories of the survivors. They record the names of the victims and what happened to them. They have 4 million names but they will never reach 6 million. In some cases entire villages were wiped out there was no one left to tell their story.

One of the more haunting experiences for me was a photograph of an elderly woman. The guide asked us how old we thought she was. Most of us guessed somewhere in the 60's or 70's. The answer was 26 her experiences had aged her that much. That photo is burned into my mind now because I am currently 26.

The name of the Holocaust museum in Hebrew is Yad Vashem. To an English speaker this doesn't mean  anything. Literally translated it means a hand and a name. It comes from the Bible: "I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons or daughters. I will give them an everlasting name which shall not perish." Isaiah 56:5 Translated this museum gives each victim a name and a place that they will be remembered.

The museum has an excellent website you can find here The website has lots of resources including video testimony of the survivors.

On July 19th I visited the Israel Museum. Again no pictures were allowed inside. This museum is huge, this was my second time visiting. My first time was with my archaeology class last fall. Outside they have a large one acre model of Second Temple Jerusalem that is very impressive. But the main draw of this museum (at least for me) is the Shrine of the Book. This is where you can see parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of course since I study the Bible this was very exciting for me. I couldn't get over how neat the handwriting was and how steady there hand was. Each line was very straight. I can't write straight unless the paper has lines on it. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible in scroll form. They have a copy of the entire book of Isaiah. However only parts of the collection are on display at any time as they are trying to preserve them. The building they are in is very dark and cold. You can read more about the Dead Sea Scrolls here

Also on display is the Aleppo Codex which is the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible in book form. This book has a rather interesting history you can read about here.


  1. I took some time to go through the Holocaust memorial museum and found it emotionally moving and informative. More happened during this horrific time period that most people are completely unaware of. Much can be learned by listening to the stories of those who lived and who've been able to speak. I remember you were overcome with emotion when we spoke on the phone after your visit to the museum. The huge mound of discarded shoes worn by children who perished stays in my mind and the records of stories that covered a large room from floor to ceiling. I know you'll always remember that visit.

    I've heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls and didn't realize they were housed in the Israeli museum. No doublt the parchment is fragile with the passage of time. Getting to see even a small section of these scrolls would be amazing for a budding Biblical scholar. On my Jerusalem map it shows the Israeli museum and The Shrine of the Book in two separate but close locations. I was wondering if they are connected in some way.

    Wow a five hour final for Biblical Hebrew. I know you were mentally wiped out after that. I know you've enjoyed having a few days to rest and read something different. I hear the passion and excitement in your voice when you talk about your courses. The love of learning!


  2. What a wonderful post, Anna. I am very moved by your description of the Holocaust Museum. Thank you for explaining that the meaning of the name of the Holocaust museum in Hebrew is Yad Vashem and it's translation. I can't imagine the power of being there and seeing the vastness of the horrors of the Holocaust.

  3. Looked at that Aleppo Codex url. The picture of the building or whatever is weird. Not sure it's supposed to represent anything other than the architects pretentions toward good taste. It looks like a coolie hat or a somewhat squashed blonde hershey's kiss. Did anyone say why they put it in such a strange building?