Visiting the first Holocaust museum is a moving revelation for GW students

The GW Hatchet’s Special Projects Editor Matt Berger spent 12 days in Israel this winter break, as part of the Israel 2000 program. He spent each day with a different school and filed daily reports for Hillel’s Web site The following is one of his reports, from a day spent with a group of 40 students from GW.

JERUSALEM -Today’s events hit a wide range of emotions.

Our day started with Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum. I traveled today with students from GW, which is located in the city with one of the newest and most elaborate memorials to the Holocaust. But the GW students, myself included, got something different from Yad Vashem.

A lot of people say Yad Vashem is not as good as the Holocaust Museum in D.C., junior Jared Reiss said. I think Yad Vashem is incredible.

Reiss said he was particularly moved by one section of the museum, which was lined with the original cobblestones from a concentration camp.

Just walking on the same cobblestones as those people, it really hit home for me, he said.

Jaime Weifelner called the Jerusalem museum much more symbolic.

They used art, she said. They assumed most people are educated about the Holocaust.

It’s more of a commemorative place to show what happened and bring closure to it, Weifelner said.

Having the museum in the Jewish homeland added to the site’s meaning.

It was truly a remarkable experience to visit a similar museum in Israel with Israelis and be able to observe their reactions to the presentation, junior Seth Weinert said.

From Yad Vashem, the students traveled to Mount Herzl, and placed stones on the graves of Theodore Herzl, the George Washington of Israel, and Yitzhak Rabin, the leader most students associated with the Middle East peace process, who was assassinated several years ago.

Our day also took us on an archaeological dig. We mined a cave, and some students found they had a new calling: finding pottery among the dirt. I wasn’t one of them. And we got on our hands and knees as we scoped out a new cave that had not been excavated. It was a tight squeeze for many of us – probably too many desserts on Ben Yehuda Street, the heart of Jerusalem’s nightlife.

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