As our article by Shlomit Levy, Hanna Levinsohn, and Elihu Katz points out, the Holocaust is still very much a part of Jewish identity. Through their work, recorded in the article “The Many Faces of Jewishness in Israel”, they discovered that the Holocaust was mentioned by a significant number of survey respondents as a factor in their conception of themselves as Jewish. The key difference between ways in which the Holocaust has formed these respondents’ identity is that some cling to the memory of Aushwitz – the victimization, the violence and the atrocity – while others cling to the spirit of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, an event symbolizing the tenacity of the Jewish people even in the face of great danger. This dichotomy initially spoke to me as I considered the Holocaust museums of Yad Vashem and Lohanei Hagetaot. These museums speak to the importance of Holocaust memory for the Jewish people that we encountered in our reading by Rachel Auerbach “Yizkor 1943”. Auerbach recites a heart-wrending list of figures of the Warsaw Ghetto who faded and then were extinguished by the violence of the Holocaust. A key point that I took from this reading was the necessity of remembrance. Auerbach writes that she wishes that she could stop writing about them and thinking about them but she cannot bring herself to – the list of figures goes on. Despite the pain of memory, it appears evident that remembering the Holocaust is very important for Jews all over Israel. A museum is an excellent method of commemoration but just as different Israeli survey respondents in Levy, Levinsohn, and Katz’s study indicated that they identified with different aspects of the Holocaust, museums can also focus on the Holocaust in different ways that cause visitors to experience the remembrance differently.

I think that Yad Vashem was a difficult experience for the entire group. Our guide had us convene at the entrance to the museum where she discussed the trees of the righteous, trees commemorating those who had helped the Jewish people during the Holocaust. She was very explicit in her comparison of the 25 thousand trees with the 6 million Holocaust casualties. The museum itself is a wedge that drives into the side of a mountain, creating a dark, enclosed space with a single path that zig-zags from side to side through the museum. From the beginning of the central path, you can see the daylight at the end but are blocked from proceeding straight towards it by exhibitions centred in the corridor. You are forced to go from side to side into different rooms of the museum to get through, seeing various artefacts and exhibitions on the atrocities committed against various Jewish communities throughout the years of the Holocaust. Many of us burst into tears early on into our tour and did not cease to weep until after we had exited the museum. Others scribbled furiously in notebooks in an attempt to engage on an academic level with what we were seeing and stave off any sort of overwhelming emotional response. The Kibbutz museum at Lohanei Hagetaot was extremely different. Our guide ushered us in and proudly called our attention to the sheer amount of light in the space – every room has access to an impressive amount of natural light. As she walked us through the Warsaw uprising exhibit, she called our attention to the adversity that the Jewish residents faced. They were outnumbered and had very few weapons between them. Our guide returned each time, however, to the great accomplishment that the uprising was. She indicated the guns that Germans held as they herded Jewish deportees from the ghetto as expressions of fear. The Germans had seen what the Jews were capable of and were forced to defend themselves more strictly. The space as a whole also differed significantly from Yad Vashem. The sheer amount of natural light was impressive in contrast with the darkness of the former and the museum plan was a bit more open. Our guide impressed upon us that visitors were encouraged to enter rooms in whatever order they wished, wandering in and out and experiencing it at their leisure. She placed an emphasis on the way in which the museum strives to invite visitors to choose what they wished to see and engage with it. The stark contrast between these two museums – how they present themselves and the response that they elicit from visitors – can perhaps be tied to the motivations behind their foundation. “Yad Vashem” translates to “a place and a name”. The museum was mandated by the Knesset as a place where those who suffered during the Holocaust would have a place in which their names could be displayed and remembered. The Kibbutz Lohanei Hagetaoat Museum, however, was the result of members of the kibbutz community growing concerned about modern day Holocaust remembrance. Many of the founding members of the Kibbutz were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and they contributed their own memorabilia to a collection for the public that would allow visitors to engage with individual memories of the Holocaust and reflect upon what that event meant. The strong connection with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising survivors explains the museum’s emphasis on that triumphant event in history and it also demonstrates why the museum is filled with such light. The brightness is a continual symbol of life, indicating that the museum is the vision of those who lived on after the holocaust – whose memories of horrors coexisted with the light and freedom of kibbutz life in Israel.

The darkness and tragedy of Yad Vashem makes for a stark contrast with the triumph of rebellion portrayed by the Kibbutz Lohanei Hagetaot Museum and I initially placed these museums into two separate categories. One soberly recalls the great loss while the other celebrates the spirit that the trying times brought out in the fierce Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, as pointed out in Edward Rothstein’s article in the New York Times “Holocaust Museums in Israel Evolve”, the museums do have something in common. The culmination of both Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lohanei Hagetaot museums is their view at the end of the museum experience. Yad Vashem features an outlook that directs the viewers gaze to the hills of Jerusalem – the light at the end of that dark tunnel of exhibitions is the holy city. Kibbutz Lohanei Hagetaot offers a beautiful countryside view of fields and an ancient aqueduct. There were beautiful lilacs in bloom as we stood on the roof and surveyed the countryside of the Kibbutz. The consolation that both museums offer their visitors is the land of Israel. You slog through the horror and the struggle, the rebellion and the bloodshed to be greeted by the site of this beautiful country that reassures you because it is beautiful and because you know that the Jewish people now have their own place of safety. How effective is this consolation though? Emil Fackenheim describes this tikkun (or healing) as “fragmentary” in his article “The Jewish Return into History”. He speaks of the recovery of Jewish tradition as the way in which Jews can be healed – their tikkun. He also mentions the impetus to survive and be happy as the “614th commandment”, a mitzvah to add to the other 613 of its kind commanding that one should be happy in order to not let Hitler win a posthumous victory of crushing even the Jews that are living. Fackenheim applies this healing to the state of Israel as he advocates for the right of return so as to prevent any further acts of anti-Semitism resembling the Holocaust in other parts of the world. The actual land of Israel seems to be a lesser part of his idea of healing though. His continued reiteration of Israel as a “fragmentary” tikkun demonstrates that Fackenheim places emphasis on healing not on the actual land but on the continuation of Jewish life and tradition. While museums like Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lohanei Hagetaot present the land as the consolation following such tragedy, it seems that scholars like Fackenheim are not as sure that the land can really offer such a solution.

The lesson from these various forms of remembrance of the Holocaust, the emphasis on different aspects of the Holocaust, and the final disagreement between parties regarding what the final healing mechanism following the Holocaust can be seems to be one of pluralism. All of our readings and experiences have reflected this so far. Israelis remember different aspects of the Holocaust and their museums reflect this – alternately portraying tragedy and heroic struggle. Even when institutions seem to agree on a form of healing through the land of Israel, scholars bring in new ideas on how Jews all over the world should be moving on. All of these solutions fit with Fackenheim’s 614th commandment. No matter how an individual chooses to remember the Holocaust, how they choose to heal, as long as there are Jews in the world living happy lives, the 614th commandment is fulfilled and the world stands in defiance of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The various ways that the Holocaust is remembered and the various solutions to its pain serve the millions of families that the event affected. Having a plurality of ways to remember and heal means that a large number of people are healing.