Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stopping everything

"It's a memorial for the Holocaust. It's Yom HaShoah ."

That's what I said to the young (British-sounding) tourist who turned to me after the ceasing was over and the people got back in their cars at one of Jerusalem's busiest intersections. She asked, "what was this? What were people doing?"

By the ceasing, I mean one of the most short -- but powerful -- ceremonies in all of Israel, the way Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is marked. At 10 am, a siren goes off everywhere in the country and everything comes to a stop for two minutes. At the busy intersection Minna and I were at, there was horn honking right up to the moment the siren went off. But then it all stopped and the honking drivers all got out of their cars to stand at attention for the silent observance. A similar observance will be held next week for Yom HaZikaron, which honors the dead from war and terrorism.

Last night, Minna and one of her classmates had the honor of being at the official national ceremony for Yom HaShoah, which was held at Israel's main Holocuast Museum, Yad VaShem.The Prime Minister and many other dignitaries were there.


It was kind of an important step for me to be so intentional about engaging such an important part of Israeli life as Yom HaShoah -- on this visit I have been so consumed by the work and such I brought with me that I've been more "just living" here as opposed to "visiting" here. On one hand, that's great -- it's an expression of how much I feel at home here in Jerusalem. On the other hand, this is such a special opportunity to be here, and who knows when I will ever be able to be here, again. I have about four weeks left -- I'm going to try and enjoy them! :) . . . . . I have _definitely_ enjoyed the bicycle riding that I finally managed to get to this week. I posted here about one great ride I took Sunday. Yesterday, I took a shorter, but still challenging ride up to Yad Kennedy. . . . . The beauty of the hills on that ride -- and in all the hills in and around Jerusalem -- is something that speaks to me in a way I just cannot describe. As I write this I am sitting in a park overlooking one such beautiful hillside not far from where Minna is at class now at Machon Schechter. . . . . It really is these things -- the hills and the people of the city -- that speak to me so much here, and not necessarily so much the famous holy sites like the Western Wall. . . . I've been reading Karen Armstrong's book on Jerusalem. In the opening pages she talks about what it is that makes a place holy to people. She says it has something to do with an association a place gets with the _experience_ of the holy. . . . Somehow, for me, God is closer here. Here, in the people. And in the hills.

[X-posted to smamitayim]

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