Deciding to do a year abroad was eye-opening, to say the least. I chose Israel to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and diversity of Israeli society and to appreciate the rich history and culture of the region. One of the experiences that left a lasting mark on me was the following.
As I sat at Yad Vashem on Yom Hashoah, the official Holocaust Memorial Day, I was struck by the weight of history surrounding me. I had just listened to the speeches of the prime minister and president of Israel—Benjamin Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog—who, despite their political differences, stood united in their commitment to honor the memory of 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.
Attending on this night was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Through Jeff Seidel’s Jewish outreach program, my fellow study-abroad students and I were fortunate enough to attend this night of remembrance.
Despite the lack of interest shown by some of my classmates, I made the decision to visit Yad Vashem and it turned out to be the best choice I could have made. Walking through the memorial was incredibly emotional.
We were all taken aback by the power of the memorial to evoke a sense of empathy and understanding for the victims and survivors of this dark chapter in human history. I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the tragedy and beyond moved by the stories of the survivors who were present at the memorial.
The Holocaust is a tragedy difficult to comprehend; however, amid the darkness, there is hope and resilience. Seeing the love and support that the families had for their loved ones was a reminder of the power of family and community. It was evident that these families had been through more than we can ever imagine, but they had come together to support one another and ensure that the survivors’ stories were never forgotten. As the number of survivors dwindles, it becomes even more important to preserve their stories and ensure that their legacy endures.
As we continue to grapple with issues of racism, bigotry and intolerance, the lessons of Yad Vashem are more relevant than ever. We must never forget the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and we must work together to build a more just and compassionate world for all.
Alexandra Charitaki is currently on a study-abroad program in Israel.