Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street

Tuesday morning, Ben and I woke up early to get a 3 mile run in the neighborhood in before our full day with Grandma, Grandpa and Chuck.  We decided not to go too far, and just ran in the neighborhood around the condo.  My cousin Ari warned me that the hills were pretty hard, but I figured, we'd both been training in Birmingham with plenty of hills and awful humidity.  Surely we could handle it.

Holy cow.  Jerusalem hills are SO. MUCH. BIGGER.   We covered three miles, but I had to stop to walk a few times.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have saved my energy for the rest of the day & night, but I didn't, and now I can say I've run the hills of Jerusalem--which does hold certain bragging rights. :)

After our run and breakfast at the condo, we decided to spend the morning at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum.  We couldn't visit Israel and have Jewish family that lived through the Holocaust and not experience Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the museum, so you'll just have to take my word for the fact that it's a very impressive museum that chronologically tells the story of the Jews throughout the Holocaust, describing in detail the persecution, the ghettos, the death camps, and the lives of the people who lived through it.

Built around a long cement triangular hallway, the museum has you weave back and forth into different rooms full of giant photographs, video interviews, memorabilia and written stories.


If I remember the story correctly (family - please correct my story-telling if I'm wrong) my great-grandmother's cousin, Hadassah lived in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland and was involved with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and spent some time in a concentration camp.  You don't need a family connection to appreciate the severity of the Holocaust, but it definitely adds a deeper dimension of respect to the history.

Though the combination of my exhausting early morning run and the ominous mood set by the theme of the museum left me feeling like I might pass out at any moment, I do feel like I learned so much more than my high school history classes could ever have taught me.  It leaves you flabbergasted that something like that could ever have been allowed to happen.

I wouldn't necessarily call it a "fun" morning, but it was certainly educational - and a must-see if you are in the Jerusalem area.

From there, we headed into downtown Jerusalem to Ben Yehuda Street for lunch and a look at the more "modern" Jerusalem with Uncle Chuck as our guide.

Ben Yehuda street is full of Judaica shops, street cafes and lots of people - both locals and tourists.

But, before we could do much exploring, first things first -- lunch at Tmol Shilshom, a quaint little bookstore & cafe.

{I'll be blogging all our adventurous food choices in a separate post.}

After lunch, I had some much-needed coffee to try and get me through the rest of the day without needing a nap! 

After lunch, we walked through the street, taking in the sights and sounds, hopping out of the way of the electric train cars (that you can't hear coming), and stopping for some very quick souveneir shopping along the way.  We picked up a shofar for Paxton and some Hebrew letter beads that spell Ayla's name, plus a mezuzah and prayer parchment for our front door.

Then Chuck guided us into the neighborhoods behind the main thoroughfare and we got a little glimpse into the world people live in.

This synagogue had all kind of ornate decorations on the front door and sign.  Plus, I loved the metal star of David above the doorway!

I especially enjoyed photographing the windows and doorways and I never tired of the turquoise doors and shutters. :) My favorite color.

Next, we walked over to the Mahane Yehuda Market, also called the "Shuk".  This was one of my mom's favorite places when she visited Israel a couple of years ago.

It was busy - and full of all kinds of gorgeous displays of foods of all different kinds - fruits, olives, nuts, spices, desserts, vegetables and more!

Wouldn't it be fun to be able to buy your weekly groceries here?

After the market, Grandma and Grandpa rested for a little bit while Chuck led us on a brisk walk through a religious neighborhood in the area called Mea Shearim

I think Ben was especially intrigued by this group's religious lifestyle and customs.  Walking through their neighborhood was truly like stepping back in time.

Here's some Wikipedia info about the people who live in this neighborhood:

Today, Mea Shearim remains an insular neighbourhood in the heart of Jerusalem. With its overwhelmingly Haredi population, the streets retain the flavor of an Eastern European shtetl. Life revolves around strict adherence to Jewish law, prayer, and the study of Jewish texts. Traditions in dress may include black frock coats and black or fur-trimmed hats for men (although there are many other clothing styles, depending on the religious sub-group to which they belong), and long-sleeved, modest clothing for women. In some groups, the women wear thick black stockings all year long, including summer. Married women wear a variety of headcoverings, from wigs to headscarves. The men have beards and some grow long sidecurls, called peyos. The residents speak Yiddish in their daily lives, and use Hebrew only for prayer and religious study, as they believe Hebrew to be a sacred language only to be used for religious purposes. "

Modesty" posters in Hebrew and English are hung at every entrance to Mea Shearim. When visiting the neighborhood, women and girls are asked to wear what is deemed to be modest dress (knee-length skirts or longer, no plunging necklines or midriff tops, no sleeveless blouses or bare shoulders) and tourists are requested not to arrive in large, conspicuous groups. During the Shabbat (from sunset Friday until it is completely dark on Saturday night), visitors are asked to refrain from smoking, photography, driving or use of mobile phones. When entering synagogues, men are asked to cover their heads.

Just a normal day of touring in Jerusalem!

By about 4:00 in the afternoon, we headed back to the condo so we could rest get ready for the big event that night and the reason for our entire trip -- my cousin's wedding!


Israel Trip Wrap-Up:

  1. Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
  2. Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
  3. Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
  4. Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
  5. Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
  6. Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
  7. Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
  8. Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
  9. Israel Trip: City of David
  10. Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
  11. Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
  12. Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
  13. Israel Trip: The Food

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