Because my last couple of days in Jerusalem fell on Shabbat, I had to reserve whatever activities I wanted to do or see for the early morning as everything would close late afternoon on Friday and re-open Saturday night. And what better way to bring it all home than a visit to the Holocaust museum, a bike ride through the Old City, and Shabbat dinner?
As I learned from my visit to the Hermitage, I am not a museum person, but I am unbelievably fascinated by the events and massacres of the Holocaust. Something that I am unable to put to rest is what made Hitler and all of his followers tick. What made them wipe out a race for no other reason but pure hatred? It is something I, and I’m sure many others, cannot fathom.
The clock is ticking on the day I will get to meet a Holocaust survivor and hear their stories firsthand. Until then, in lieu of being in one of the most historical cities in the world, a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum was a great way to pay my respects to a past that Germany isn’t necessarily proud of and one that the Jews who survived to tell the tale have to live with every day.
The architecture of the museum alone is worth seeing, and I feel like it thoroughly encompasses the timeline of the Holocaust. It presents both a big picture from the perspective of multiple countries as well as stories and remnants from individuals who fled Germany, survivors, or those who lost their lives. Entrance is free, and I highly recommend getting the audio guide for 20 NIS. It is one of the most in-depth guides I’ve ever come across in a museum leaving no detail undiscovered. Audio guide or no audio guide, prepare to spend a good 3-4 hours walking through the museum, and be sure to take breathers every once in a while. There’s a lot of heavy information to take in so pace yourself.
At the end, walk into the room that is home to a collection of all the names of the people who lost their lives in the camps as well as the ones who managed to escape. Encircled by binders for days, you can’t help but just stand in awe.
As you walk out, be sure to visit the children’s memorial. It’s chilling and depressing but so beautifully representative of the innocence of the children who died so young.
After spending a good few hours immersed in some dark history, I decided to take a bike ride around the Old City to clear my head once more. Let me tell you that biking through the Old City isn’t easy. There are too many stairs, narrow alleyways, and people protruding from the shops so frequently that I ended up walking my bike around instead of riding.
While I was wandering, I ran into a couple of small boys who were ready to trade me the hummus they were carrying for a ride on my bike. In retrospect, I should’ve said yes, but in fear of them taking off with my bike, I simply carried on. Shame on me.
Even though I complain about how difficult it is to bike around Jerusalem when it’s crowded, riding up and down a deserted Jaffa Street on Shabbat isn’t nearly as fun.
To wrap things up, I spent Friday evening where I belong and miss the most: in the kitchen helping to prepare Shabbat dinner. Surrounded by Germans at the kitchen island, I chopped away chatting with new friends, wishing I spoke German, and eyeballing the hummus that was being set out on the tables like a hungry wolf.
During dinner, I became the ultimate social Sally, conversing with a clan of Austrians on my left and a couple from the UK, on my right, who had spent the last 8 months traveling the world with their two sons. By the end of the night, they had me wishing I was a part of their family. Their two boys were just the sweetest, most polite kids I had ever met. During their travels, they were staying in hostels, and even sailed in a yacht along the West coast of Australia. As a family of 4, I have to give them major props for managing their sanity for that long.
Ended the evening in the company of some new gal pals from Belgium that had stayed the week with me. Went to sleep that night feeling exhausted and completely consumed by Jerusalem.
This article is part of a two week series of adventures in Jerusalem. You can read the others below. All tours were booked through Abraham Hostel.