Thoughts on the Holocaust

As I keep exploring new places and occasionally, encounter people who have never heard of the Holocaust, I find myself gripped by emotions that, I am afraid, will never fade away.

In general, I prefer to see the good in the world, in people. I believe we are all limited to our own perspectives, connecting mostly with our own experiences and understandings.

And thus, we have to be open to others, see where they are coming from, and always aspire for a dialogue.

Very few people I met were Holocaust deniers. I could count them on one hand. A denial of the Holocaust usually stems from a very deep misconception of history, or (and I do not think of them much), Antisemitic people. Sometimes I prefer not to engage in someone’s misconception. And the Holocaust is one of those few subjects.

Below is a Facebook post I wrote back in 2017 when I was about to go on a flight from Tel Aviv to Berlin for the first time. A lot of my emotions went into this post. I don’t write or think about this subject much, it’s just in me. And I do not like it being there. 

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Next week I will be visiting Berlin for the first time. I have some days to explore it on my own before my co-workers will arrive for a staff retreat. I was considering avoiding any Jewish related places. Museum, memorial, monument. I was going to focus on art, music, fun places. But this morning, I decided to change this plan, just a little, adding the Holocaust Museum to my to-do list.

Never in my life I visited a Nazi concentration camp.

I moved to the U.S just before my class went to visit them in Poland. But I never felt the need to visit them.

I always thought our world hasn’t evolved much since then, and that the Holocaust hovers around me like a plague all the time to remind me of it.

Sometimes words on the internet tell me that the Holocaust never happened. “Only some thousands died” is another statement. “Stop whining about it for sympathy,” they say in the comment section.

Most of it is ignorance, boredom or racism. However, I also know that Israel is using the tender memory of the Holocaust. Using it well: The teachers at my school used the trauma to unite us, to keep us strong and spirited. But mostly, afraid. Afraid of the outside world, of anyone who isn’t Jewish. Isn’t us.

Israel is Israel. I am enfolded with it whenever I go. People say all sorts of things, I am used to it. I spent a long time abroad. Yet, something deep inside me falls into the hands of the conspirators who say it never took place. Because history is fun to play with, especially on the internet.

And I find myself wishing their scheme was real: I wish the holocaust never happened.

I would be a completely different person. Maybe living in a different place, speaking different languages, or maybe I would not be at all.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

I would have a larger family. I would get to know those communities and cultures that were wiped out. Villages, towns, markets. Gone. Except at times, beyond white school t-shirts, the military attire, and the strong solid images Israel planted in my vision; I can see blurry figures:
Craft people, makers of simple house tools, they are baking warm bread, reading the exact same books every year, lighting candles to pray, using their own language as well as the local one, feeling at home. I am who I am thanks to them, too, and I am grateful. We are still connected. It hasn’t been that long.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because millions of women, men, children, and babies would not have perished. Stripped of any dreams or memories of being human. Caged, starved, shot, gassed and burned like cattle in the well documented and organized factories of death.
I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because death is in us today and I always wanted it to leave me. Because we are losing ourselves in fear. Forever feeling like prey. Forever trapped in death. I wish we praised life the way we say we praise it, drink to it, all lives, every life.

I wish we spoke about life more than we speak about death. Much more.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

I wish it for selfish reasons. Because I cannot remember living without the horrors gripping me, stored in the darkest corners of my mind, haunting me at night: abused bodies, piled over each other in a mass grave no one will ever find, I wish I have never seen them. Broken skin, burnt hair, dead flesh, and dim souls. I wish I never met you. Little girls experimented on in Nazi laboratories, I wish I never heard your screams.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because we are injured and our wound does not heal.

Let’s look forward, without forgetting. Let’s say goodbye to death, for now.

 

 

September Update (and a bit of October)

Hello!


Summer is gone, the holidays are finally over, fall and reddish colored leaves are not really something you see in Jerusalem, but October in the holy land will always be my favorite kind of October.


September was a shaky month, I faced some down thoughts and emotions. They related to a few uncertainties and challenges that are going on in my life. But that’s life. And I am working on embracing them. Overall, I think the changes are good for me.

In a month and a bit, I will be heading to the US, for a long period of time. I am planning on taking part in an Artist in Residency there this winter; something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time.
My parents, who had their green card for a while, will soon be able to vote, which excites them. I, the only american (on papers) in the family, have been feeling very detached from the political scene there. Honestly, my interest mostly comes from how it influences Israel/Palestine. But lately, I’ve been far from that too. It’s probably better like this, for now. The things I am looking forward to the most in the US are simple: going groceries with my mom (checking out all the options Israel doesn’t have), sit at Barnes & Nobles with my dad and talk about nerdy things (I can do this for hours) and hear from my sister (who isn’t american on papers) about the american slang I never heard of (none of it basically).
One of the doctors I visited this past month told me: “you are very close to your family but you are trying to run away from that. Don’t worry though, once you form your own family you will feel better”. Sweet of him. Though I don’t think I will “form” a family anytime soon. There is still so much I want to explore on my own.


On Sukkot, I traveled north to the Golan to visit my aunt, who keeps with the mitzvah of building a sukkah every year, without a man. Women are not committed to a sukkah according to the texts, but here it is anyway, and it is marvelous. 

It’s a shame sukkah’s lifespan is 8 days and then it ought to be gone.    

Drawings of earthy growing foods. Seriously the most beautiful sukkah ever. My aunt is traditional and does things according to the halakha, but always adds her own artistic touch to everything. 

The round table in her studio 🙂 
A mountain monster in my sketchbook

The area where my aunt lives
Part of our breakfast. 
The candle is for my grandma who recently passed away

I’ve been meditating regularly for the past two weeks. I have a long way to go in my meditation journey, but I try to gently focus on the moment, on each morning, and each breath. 


Another Sukkah. Karen and I made drawings for it in my living room. It supports the Palestinian Beduin community at Khan Al Ahmar as they face the threat of demolition.
I am still thinking about the concept of sukkah against demolition. There is room for more on this topic, for sure.

Old City discoveries. Matilda (who speaks and reads all the languages) translating some Arabic as I take a photo. 

More from the old city. Some very beautiful calligraphy. 
I especially like this one.

Another page from my sketchbook



My Tu Bishvat Story

Before I got miraculously accepted into Bard, I went to a New Jersey community college to work on my English. The place, and especially my English Composition classes, was full with immigrants and busy people who already had children. I became friends with a girl from Kosovo who won her green card in a lottery (“I am incredibly lucky.”)  and a Korean girl who wasn’t half as shy as she first looked. Both never heard about Israel. “There is no way your country is smaller than Korea, I can drive across Korea in one day!”
One morning, an Israeli girl appeared in one of my English composition classes. We discovered each other faster than the speed of light (“How did YOU end up HERE?” she demanded). She was older than me, very confident, with straight impressively long black hair that used to be curly. We shared a desk. Class started and we got an assignment to write a short essay about something from our home country that we missed. There were so many things I missed. But I didn’t know how to name them or how to pick one. Eventually, I wrote about Tu Bishvat.
In that moment, Tu Bishvat symbolized the earthy atmosphere I grew up in and the countless trips I took with family and friends to visit nature, a specific kind of wilderness New Jersey simply doesn’t have. Tu Bishvat also tends to arrive when winter is weakened and you can finally take off your coat. One of my favorite moments in life.  
“Oh Metuka Ktana At ! (you little sweetheart)” she laughed, so amused by my topic.  After class, she sat with me outside and told me all about her essay in details. It was about the IDF. The experience there, apparently, was very meaningful to her. While listening, I couldn’t help but feeling as if she was striving to educate me. She was telling me to grow up. And not to write about Tu Bishvat next time. Maybe it was only in my head. Surely I focused on the differences between our choices instead of listening to her.  
A few hours later, my other friend told me about the war in Kosovo during the 90s. I didn’t know much about it. She told me it was horrible. People she knew died. I found myself gazing at a specific spot on the wall. I was about to cry. God knows why. I went to the bathroom to do just that.
I missed Israel but I also didn’t miss it or the obligation to protect it.
I grew up a bit and I have a similar feeling today. 

Tu Bishvat was my lonesome then, I would still write about it today, with love.