People react to disasters in different ways. In India, the Independence struggles, the oppressive regimes have all but been forgotten. Because our primary religions (I mean Hinduism, its offshoots and Islam)teach us to be 'fatalist'.
The Yad Va Shem, meaning a memorial to the tribes of Shem (son of Noah from whom the Jews descended) is a tribute to all the Jews who lost their lives in the Shoah(Hebrew for Holocaust).
We meandered through the events into an Aushwitz death-wagon and then I felt stifled. I walked through the rest of the sections trying to squelch the growing nausea(of the horrors) into a lovely section about the 'Avenue of the Righteous'. This section was built to honor non-Jews who believed in humanity in those tough times and saved many many Jews, the most popular of them being Oskar Shindler. (Nanny Sandra Samuel to Baby Moshe, of 26/11 fame is recognized as a 'Righteous Gentile'). In the gardens outside, several of them are honored with a tree planted for their service.
Finally one walks into a room with a deep well. The well reflects walls and walls of box folders. One folder for each person who perished during the Shoah. More than 2 million folders are yet to be identified and the space for them is blank. The Jews believe in knowing their ancestry and it pains them immensely that several of their ancestors had perished without survivors or records. It is an unbelievably touching memorial reflecting the resilience and defiance of the Jewish race, not to mention their love for their brethren and meticulousness in preserving their memory.
My usually talkative TP had now forgotten all of the 6 languages she speaks. In silence we walked through (the ubiquitous souvenir shop) into the gardens and into a memorial for children. Thats when the tears started rolling (and didn't stop for a long time).
If we - Indians, Hindus, young-enough to have never witnessed any holocaust or oppression, living a yuppie-privileged life, moderate in thought - were moved beyond words, imagine how an 18 year old Jewish military recruit feel? After the shock and sadness passes away, am sure it would be replaced by patriotic fervor. The Jews as a race believe in remembering, and passing on the remembrances. Yad Va Shem is the pinnacle of this belief to preserve their memories for posterity.
"And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a "yad vashem")... that shall not be cut off."
(Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5)
Dazed, TP and I walked straight into a mall to shop away our sorrow.
Moral: It is important to wear sturdy shoes always. It is more important to remember what is important to us.