Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Museum, is definitely one of the more sobering places to visit in Israel. It is a must if you are traveling to Israel with older children — children under 12 years old are not permitted inside.
It is a special place, with a somber atmosphere, as you can imagine. But even outside the walls of the museum itself there is much to see and do. So don’t leave this off your Israel for Families agenda!
Yad Vashem: The Israel Holocaust Museum
“And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a “yad vashem”)… that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 56:5
Yad Vashem was established in 1953. The current building was opened in 2005. There is no charge for admittance and it is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish holidays.
The Holocaust History Museum is a long corridor of 10 exhibition halls dedicated to different chapters of the Holocaust. The halls are connected together in across bridges in one long line. It was designed to project the feeling that once you enter, you cannot leave, just as the victims of the Holocaust had no escape.
You’re greeted by smiling, waving Jews and children overlaid on a map of Europe at the museum entrance. It is a small glimpse into their happy lives before this tragic event.
On display you will find what people put in their pockets as they were taken from their homes — their most treasured possessions were photos: A smiling woman by the sea, three men laughing and joking; letters from family.
One of the most heart-wrenching parts for me was a pit dug in the floor of one exhibition hall filled with shoes from the dead Holocaust victims. To this day, the image is seared in my mind.
At the end of the corridor, you enter the Hall of Names, a memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. At the top, you see photographs of Holocaust victims. At the bottom is a well that reflects the faces, representing the victims who remain unknown. Shelves line the hall filled with the Pages of Testimony that have been collected from Holocaust victims, with empty space remaining for those whose testimony has not yet been given.
On the museum grounds, you can visit the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, which recognizes non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.
Each person is recognized by a plaque and a tree planted in their honor.
Another stop is the Children’s Memorial, which was one of the most emotional parts of visiting the museum for me. As a mother, it just tore me apart.
Three candles illuminate the dark inside the Children’s Memorial, and mirrors reflect their light to create an infinite number of tiny, flickering flames — symbols of the lights that were extinguished by this horrible event.
When visiting Yad Vashem, take your time and know that it is an emotional, grieving experience. Every human can relate to this horrific tragedy, and it’s something you can only experience in Israel.
Don’t miss the rest of our Israel for Families adventure!