Today was a roller-coaster of emotion. Our first stop was at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, a beautiful building which houses a horrible history. I can't pretend that this was an easy experience. The reality that millions of Jewish people were marched to extermination camps by a racist regime is difficult to digest. Though the act of remembering is essential, being confronted by stories of families torn apart and people stripped of their dignity is deeply disturbing.
The rest of the afternoon was free and so many of us took the opportunity to peruse the colourful markets of the Old City or to stop in at various holy places. Later we convened for a debriefing and devotional before heading out to the synagogue for a Shabbat (or Sabbath) service.
The place we ended up was not the place we intended to get to, unbeknownst to us, but we still had an amazing experience. We ended up at some sort of hippie-like, Jewish congregational meeting. Most of the service was spent singing beautiful, repetitious melodies that were accompanied by a flute, a cello, hand drums, guitars and clapping. It was so exciting to absorb the sights and sounds of their worship.
After the service we split into two groups and and joined families for Shabbat dinner. It's a beautiful tradition that involves lighting candles, breaking bread and singing blessings over the family and the food. It was an honour to be included in such a sacred family tradition that is thousands of years old.
All in all, it was a good day. Though we began the day by interacting with the dead, we ended the day by connecting with the living. To me it was a sign of hope.