Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tisha B'Av

Sunday 10 August was Tisha B'Av. "The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av has been set aside as a day of national mourning for all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout their history." Originally a day marking the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, Tisha B'Av now is also a day to remember those murdered during the Holocaust. Two busloads of students from the student village went to Yad Vashem (The Hand of God), the Holocaust Museum, where we toured at our own pace the New Museum. The place was packed with people of all walks of life to envision what had transpired during this terrible time in history. The short documentary films, personal video-taped accounts, artefacts, photographs, and historical detailing of the circumstances of those persecuted throughout Europe and Northern Africa, made for an incredibly somber and powerful experience. I walked with tissue ready, amazed at the endurance of the survivors, the capability for cruelty, and the necessity for remembering such an atrocity so as never to repeat it.

Outside the New Museum is the Avenue of the Righteous. For every group or individual who helped the Jews escape from the Nazis, a tree has been planted. There are certain requirements for being considered Righteous: from the website: "Trees, symbolic of the renewal of life, have been planted in and around the Yad Vashem site, in honor of those non-Jews who acted according to the most noble principles of humanity by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Plaques adjacent to each tree record the names of those being honored along with their country of residence during the war. More plaques appear on walls of honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations."

Early in my visit to the museum, I saw this quote which struck me: "A country is not just what it does - it is what it tolerates." -- Kurt Tucholsky. I think is the same for people: it is not just what we do, but also who we tolerate. I think back to a conversation I had with my father, where he was telling me about discussing intolerance with my stepmother. It went something like, "We consider ourselves intolerant of intolerance, but where does that place us on the scale of intolerance? As intolerant as those who are intolerant of others? Are we better than intolerant people, for having recognized that we will not tolerate intolerance?...?" - and we are left with ellipses. Better to be left with the ellipses, and the knowledge that we will tolerate in others what is different from ourselves. Better to be left with ellipses than the alternative - an alternative, potentially, as tragic as the Holocaust. Perhaps that is part of my T-ness, that I try to spread wherever I go - tolerance, acceptance, remembrance. Everywhere I go is the opportunity not only to practice tolerance, but to be tolerant.

Thoughts? Insights? Essentially, I'm struggling with the right words to convey how powerful it was for me being at Yad Vashem, but wanted to let you know I was there during an extremely special time in the Hebrew calendar.


Anonymous said...

I have "caught" myself being intolerant of intolerant people - and in the same vein, I have found also found myself struggling with being compassionate towards those that are not compassionate. Being aware of this within myself has helped me to become more tolerant and more compassionate. Does this make sense? When I meet someone who is not compassionate or tolerant - instead of judging/condemning them - I try and send them messages of compassion and tolerance.

Anonymous said...

As your erstwhile Hebrew teacher, I just wanted to point out that Yad Vashem is a quote taken from Isaiah 56:5 and means literally "a monument and a name" and figuratively "a memorial" (or something along these lines). Enjoying your posts! CSE

Anonymous said...

"Stuggling with the words?" I don't think so - this entry was beautiful, powerful and thought provoking. Thank you. Love, Bijoux