Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem: a must see glimpse into the soul of Israel

Yad Vashem Hall of NamesYad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust – visiting Yad Vashem is a very humbling experience, but a definite must do if you want to gain a deeper insight into the Israel psyche.

It’s not the funnest few hours you’ll ever have in Israel, but the stories of courage of both men and women that fought the Nazi regime, mixed with the sorrow and reflection for the lives lost makes for a very powerful visit.

Yad Vashem, which means “a place and a name” in Hebrew (referring to the millions who were not given the dignity of a Jewish burial with a specified burial plot), also recognizes and honors a number of non-Jewish people that helped save Jews during this bleak period. These heroes are referred to as The Righteous Among The Nations.

It’s a place that remembers the past and safeguards its memory for future generations so that people can learn about what happened, why it happened and what was the meaning behind it all. That sense of purpose results in over 800,000 people visiting the Yad Vashem Museum every year and it is renowned as a dynamic and vital center for inter-generational and international encounters.

Just a word of advice: when you visit, prepare yourself for a highly emotional journey as you witness the carnage and tragedy of one of the most infamous episodes in the world’s history.

A brief history of Yad Vashem Museum

The idea behind the museum goes all the way back to 1942 when it was first proposed at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund. In 1945 the plan received much greater attention to detail and by 1946 Yad Vashem opened an office in Jerusalem and a smaller branch office in Tel Aviv. In 1953 the Israel Parliament passed the Yad Vashem Law establishing the Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority. In 1993 a much larger museum was built, and in 2005 the new look Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum was finally opened.

What not to miss

The Yad Vashem Museum has a wide variety of things to see and do. It’s also much larger than you first imagine and covers some 45 acres in total, so allow plenty of time to see everything.

There are 10 exhibition halls, each covering a different part of Holocaust history. The impressive Yad Vashem Museum Complex contains the Holocaust Museum, Exhibitions Pavilion, Art Museum, Learning Centre, Visual Centre and the Synagogue.

It’s not easy to suggest things that you really should check out, as the whole Yad Vashem experience is worth seeing, but if you’re pushed for time we’d highly recommend the chilling Hall of Names, where over 3 million names of Holocaust victims are listed, and Yad Layeled, a memorial to all the 1.5 million Jewish children that perished in the Holocaust. Kind of brings life’s little problems into perspective…

There are currently 37 exhibitions to take in covering all aspects of the Holocaust and an extensive photographic archive to peruse. There are also Audio Guides, a Book and Resource Centre and a nice cafeteria to take lunch or recharge your batteries.

If you’re interested in delving a little deeper into some of the stories behind the Holocaust, pay a visit to the Holocaust Resource Center. There you can find letters and diaries written by Jews during the Holocaust as well as photographs and original documents from the period. There are also testimonies from Holocaust survivors and excerpts from memoirs written after the war and an extensive collection of maps and artifacts.

Location, opening hours and accessibility

Yad Vashem Museum is located at the foot of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, and is open every day except Saturdays and all Jewish Holidays. It’s open Sunday to Wednesday 09:00-17:00, Thursdays 09:00-20:00, and Fridays and Holiday Eves 09:00-14:00.

Entrance is free and does not require prior booking. Yad Vashem also caters for wheelchair access and provides assistance for the hearing impaired. Assistance is also provided for visually impaired persons in the Library.

For more info, see the official site: www.yadvashem.org

For a virtual tour of the museum, check out this impressive official video…

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