A Day of Highs and Lows (by Joel Evans)
I knew today was going to be emotional. We were starting the day at Yad Vashem – the Holocaust memorial. If you haven't been, make sure to allocate at least a half day. It's an experience that every Jewish person needs to go through. The memorial is crafted in such a way as to take the visitor through the experience of having freedom and then having everything that you have worked hard for taken away. It's dark with just enough light to take in the exhibits, with the only outside light coming from high above. This is done intentionally to take you through the entire journey from persecution to death and then rebirth. To say it was an emotional journey for me would be an understatement. My experience was combined with the tour guide, videos, items to read, and my own deep thoughts. It was incredibly moving … and surprisingly inspiring. Instead of giving up and letting the Nazis win, the Jews fought back and made today possible. I knew the story of the Holocaust but today, I really felt the emotional ties to it.
Later in the evening, we ventured back to the Kotel for Shabbat. The Kotel came alive on Friday evening. Jews of all different levels of belief filled the courtyard, like a sea of Jews, praying and dancing together. It was an amazing sight to see. My heart filled with pride and exhilaration as soldiers, visitors, and Israelis of all different levels of faith sang, prayed and celebrated the coming of the Sabbath and our freedom. I bounced in and out of different groups of not only people from our men's trip, but complete strangers, all singing and dancing.
The truly amazing thing about the whole day, though, was that we could start with such a low and end on such an incredible high. Israel truly is a land for the Jewish people and this is the emotional and spiritual journey of a lifetime.