In the twilight hours and in the wake of Yad Vashem, our learning community found ourselves circled up in an upscale West Jerusalem park. Diverse narrations of people’s experiences and new understandings of the Holocaust slowly emerged as words were hard to find.
A lull that had grown into a prolonged silence was interrupted at last by the family story of our Israeli tour guide. 90% of her bloodline was murdered in the Holocaust, but her four Polish grandparents survived.
This woman had become my friend so I listened with tears in my eyes to the horrors of the minuscule details that she was able to share with us. I understood unlike I had ever before why her grandfather would, at each birthday, raise a glass in vocal defiance of the enemies of Israel. Lost in the memories of a dehumanizing time, he would exclaim “Never again!”… and the rest of the family would echo, “Never again!”
Violence had been done to my perspective of human beings on this day. At Yad Vashem, I was confronted with the reality of hatred, injustice, violence, and silence. It seemed as though everything beautiful about life and humanity had been stripped away. I needed a reminder of hope, of new life, of beauty, of relationship.
Just then, I watched as a bride walked with confidence into the middle of our circle with her photographer in tow.
“May I dance in your circle?” she asked.
“Please!” I said not knowing or caring if she was Israeli or Palestinian.
As she danced in our circle, we celebrated her life.