[Webmaster's note: This report was written by Leon Gork, a tour guide who writes about places he has visited. Leon was very helpful to the BikeAbout team while they were in Israel, and has graciously allowed us to make his work available to you on the BikeAbout site. The opinions expressed in this report are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BikeAbout.]

Yad Vashem

The Holocaust Memorial

(11/12/97) "To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off." Isaiah 56:5

Yad Vashem is the name of the institution for the remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The name is taken from the verse in the book of Isaiah quoted above. In Hebrew the word memorial is "Yad" and the word "..shem" means name. Literally translated it would be "a hand and a name". One of man's greatest fears is that of dying and not being remembered, that's why he builds monuments. All his life a man is obedient to G-d, observing His laws and his goodness seems to go unnoticed, when he dies nobody remembers that he was ever here on earth, excepting his children and those close to him.

The words of Isaiah are a comfort to the G-d fearing man that he will be remembered, through his obedience to G-d he has caused a much more significant memory than the transitory memory of human beings. Through his observance of G-d's commandments he has caused his name to be recorded in G-d's memory. G-d will remember him forever because he was obedient in observing G-d's commandments. His children cannot remember forever, they do their best to create ways to memorialize him for future generations but there's nothing they can do which can guarantee everlasting memory. Only G-d can give an everlasting name because He is everlasting.

The purpose of the institution "Yad Vashem" is to help us remember the innocent, decent people who died unjustly in the Holocaust and to pass that memory on to future generations.

The Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations.

A visit to Yad Vashem can arouse hatred for the Germans and other nations under German occupation in the 2nd WW involved in the crime of exterminating Jews.

Walking through "The Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations" we are made aware that in every nation there were people who were righteous so we cannot and we must not hate those nations. This avenue points to the main museum where the deeds of the wicked and the suffering of their victims are depicted. While on our way there we can meditate on the righteous memorialized in this avenue.

"The Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations" is an avenue lined with Carob trees leading to the entrance of the main museum of the Holocaust. Each tree has been planted in memory of someone or some group of non Jews who risked their lives in trying to save Jews from certain death. These people risked their own lives to save the lives of Jews.

Unfortunately there weren't enough of these righteous people.

In each of the countries conquered by Germany in the 2nd World War there were people who helped the Gestapo find Jews and so cause their death. Without this assistance the Germans could not have been as successful as they were in exterminating Jews. Thanks to these righteous people we cannot generalize, however, about any nation being bad or evil.

The righteous people are like the righteous people in Abraham's discussion with G-d when G-d decided to destroy the wicked city of Sodom. Abraham asks G-d if He will destroy the city with the righteous people aswell and G-d answers Abraham that if He finds 10 righteous people there He will save the entire city for the sake of the 10, Abraham asks what if there are only 5 righteous people and G-d says for the sake of the 5 He will sane the city, finally G-d agrees to save the city even if there is one righteous person there. There G-d did not find any righteous people and Sodom was destroyed, in Europe under the Nazis there were some righteous people and we remember them because had it not been for their righteous deeds in saving Jews we'd have had to say that all of the countries under German occupation were bad. We cannot say that and this softens the anger we feel towards those nations when we visit Yad Vashem. These righteous people too deserve ".. an everlasting name which will not be cut off."

Leon Gork (Tour Guide)
P.O.Box 4354 Jerusalem 91042
Tel/Fax 02 5810732....Cel.053 801867/823905
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Copyright 1997-2004 BikeAbout. Text copyright 1997 Leon Gork (used by permission). All rights reserved.