Visiting The Holocaust Museum in Israel
The Holocaust Museum, or Yad Vashem, is a place where biblical and secular Israel came together for me. This was my first tour to Israel, and it seemed that every mount, valley and ancient street was the site of a beloved Old or New Testament Bible story. Israel is also a modern state, still struggling for legitimacy. This political reality was inescapable, as unrest continued on Israel’s borders during our tour. The Holocaust Museum bridged these two realities in a way I didn’t expect.
The appearance of the museum is startling. It is a gray triangular shaped building that seems to be suspended in mid-air. To my mind, this architecture captures the mystery of Israel. What is holding it up? It is a miracle that there are still Jews in the world today, after so many efforts in history to annihilate them. Of course I know the answer: the God of the Bible is holding up His people, just as a mountain is holding up the museum. He is a covenant keeping God, so we should not be surprised that there are Jews and that they returned to their homeland after 2000 years. The Bible foretold this would happen.
Yet much is surprising. For me, having spent this year studying the book of Isaiah, anti-Semitism is not only surprising, it is unfathomable. The first exhibits in the Holocaust Museum detail the existence and rise of anti-Semitism going back to the Middle Ages. Cartoons depict Jews as misshapen, dark, suspicious characters. The features of Jews are unfavorably compared to the features of Aryans. According to the social Darwinian doctrine of the Nazis, Jews were considered a subhuman race, yet Jews have more achievements per capita than any other ethnic group on the planet. And still today, some efforts continue to portray Jews and Israel in a negative light. From what I saw, Israel today is orderly and civilized, clean and peaceful.
In one of the Museum’s rooms there was a framed letter written in 1938 by a U.S. Senator, explaining very emotionally why he couldn’t vote for an appropriation to allow 20,000 Jewish children to immigrate to the U.S. He explained that economic times were hard in the U.S., and that we just couldn’t afford to take care of 20,000 more children. I thought of Mary and Joseph, hearing over and over when they arrived in Bethlehem exhausted and ready to deliver, that there was no room in the inn. Yeshua himself, our Jewish Messiah and Lord, experienced the reality Jews continue to experience even today: there is no room for you. No room in our lands, and no room in our hearts.
When you get to the end of the museum, you come out on a platform overlooking a gorgeous pine forest and Jerusalem below. On the day we visited, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, a breeze was lighting blowing – the vista was breathtaking. I couldn’t help but acknowledge the redemptive hand of God: out of man’s darkest sin comes the rebirth of a nation. Once again, in this setting, biblical and secular truths align.