A biblical verse was the inspiration for the name of Israel’s most heart-rending memorial: "And to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off." The words “Yad Vashem” are the “memorial” and “name” of that verse. This intensely affecting monument and museum of the Holocaust is an effort to create a place and a name for those six million Jewish lives who fell victim to the Nazis—lives that were allowed no place of refuge on earth and whose persecutors hoped to erase even the memory of their existence.
The memorial campus is vast, spreading across a hill overlooking mountains on the edge of Jerusalem, and with a number of different memorials. Start your visit with the Holocaust Museum; it fills a long, tunnel-like structure, an agonized trail of personal possessions, diaries, photographs, and videos of Holocaust victims. Audio testimonies of survivors help reveal the history of the Holocaust on a very personal level (this museum replaces a smaller, more simple exhibit originally built in the 1960s).
Next, head to the large, empty, tomblike Hall of Remembrance, which an eternal flame shedding light on a stone floor containing plaques with the names of the many death camps and places of murder; and the moving Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations, planted with trees in tribute to each individual gentile who helped save Jewish lives. Many of these heroes and their families suffered torture and death at the hands of the Nazis. Among those honored here are the courageous friends who tried to save the family of Anne Frank, as well as thousands of others in every corner of Europe who acted with equal bravery and humanity.
Yad VaShem’s Hall of Names should be your next stop. It collects and preserves more than three million pages of testimony about the actions that were undertaken against the Jewish people during World War II, as well as the names, photographs, and personal stories of thousands of Holocaust victims. Visitors to Yad Vashem are asked to contribute any information they many have so that every possible victim may be remembered. Other memorials include the Valley of the Destroyed Communities, commemorating over 5,000 Jewish communities that were wiped from the face of the earth; and a haunting memorial to more than 1.5 million murdered Children of the Holocaust. In addition, there are research archives, an education center, and temporary exhibits.
After the Western Wall, Yad VaShem is the most visited site in the country. It demands a good amount of time to see (a minimum of 2 hr.) and is a place not recommended for young children.
- Frommer's Staff