The origin of the name Yad Vashem is from Biblical verse (Isaiah 56 verse 5): "I will give them in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better then sons or daughters. I will give them an evelasting name which shall not perish".


The word Yad means "hand". It can also be used to describe a place. Shem means "name". The words Yad Vashem can be translated as a place and name to memorrialize.

 





















 

Mount Herzl


Mount Herzl (Har Herzl in Hebrew) also known as Har haZikaron, “the Mountain of Memory” is an 834 meter hill located on the outskirts of West Jerusalem. It is considered to be one of the highest points in Jerusalem offering a 360 degree view of the Holy City. It was named after the founder of the modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, who dedicated his life to the idea of Jewish self determination and the return of the Jews to their historic homeland. 

In 1896 Herzl wrote a pamphlet called "The Jewish State" which years later would have a far reaching consequences for the Jews around the world and change the balance of power in the Middle East. He was the first Jew who conceptualized the anti-Semitism phenomenon as an international problem and provided a solution by outlining a detailed plan for the creation of the Jewish state and it's structure.

The idea for the Jewish State came to him after he personally witnessed a Dreyfus trial in France in 1895 where he traveled as a correspondent for the Austrian publication. After personally witnessing how the mobs of French citizens were chanting "Death to Jews", he came to the realization that complete Jewish assimilation into European societies is a futile fantasy that will never become a reality and that Jews desperately needed a country of their own in order to have any future for their children.

Herzl was a secular Jew who was quite assimilated to his environment in Europe, but he had to face the fact that rampant antisemitism affected the secular Jew just as much as it affected a religious one. He foresaw what many other Jews did not, an inevitable catastrophe for the European Jewry that was just a matter of when not if.

During the first Zionist Congress held in Basle in 1987, the attending members came up with a declaration that read: "The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a homestead in Palestine secured by public law". In his diary Herzl made a note "At Base I founded the Jewish State. In five years, and certainly in fifty everyone will perceive this". His prophecies came to life 1939 in the form of of the Holocaust and in 1948 when the State of Israel was officially declared.

It seems that Herzl had a strong believe that a Jewish State will eventually become become a reality, he just did not know when it will happen. It's doubtful that even in his worst nightmares Herzl could have envisioned that it would take six million dead Jews to be a catalyst for the creation of the State of a Israel.

Theodore Herzl passed away in 1904 at the age the relatively young age of 44 and was buried in his family plot in Vienna. A year earlier, he wrote a will in which he asked for the following: "I wish to be buried in a metal coffin next to my father, and to remain there until the Jewish people will transfer my remains to Eretz Israel. The coffins of my father, my sister Pauline, and of my close relatives who will have died until then will also be transferred there".

Herzl Grave Mount Herzl by Milner Moshe

          Benjamin Natanyahu at Herzl's Grave by Kobi Gideon, Israel National Photo Collection

In August of 1949, the remains of Herzl and his relatives were brought to Israel, where a special commission was created to select a burial site and a design a memorial park. Over sixty proposals for the design were submitted and in 1951 the eventual winner, Joseph Klarwein, began implementing the approved layout on the selected hill in West Jerusalem.

Herzl was buried on the highest point of the highest mountain in Jerusalem that was named after him. Herzl’s grave sits in the middle of a wide open plaza near the front of the cemetery. His tombstone is a square of black polished marble with simple encryption Herzl in Hebrew. There are no other decorations or signs on his graveside. World Zionist Organization, which originally was founded by Herzl, and Israeli government are the current caretakers of the grave.

Mount Herzl has become a national cemetery shortly after the establishment of the state of Israel. It is a place where Israeli leaders, those who helped foster it's creation and war heroes are laid to rest. One of sections of the cemetery is called Burial Grounds for the Greats of Nation. It is where Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Lea are buried.

Mount Herzl Military Cemetery by Ohayon Avi 

                  Mount Herzl Military Cemetery by Ohayon Avi, Government Press Office. Israel.

A semicircle of tombstones includes those of Presidents Zalman Shazam and Chaim Herzog, first Speaker of Knesset - Yosef Spinzak and first Israeli Finance Minister - Eliezer Kaplan. Short distance away there is a side path that leads to the graves of Herzl's family members and notable members of the World Zionist Organization and their spouses.

In the area separated from prime ministers and presidents is a grave of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky and his wife. He was a founder of Betar movement and a head of the Revisionist Zionist movement that played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel. Jabotinsky was unrelenting in his quest for the creation of Jewish State which at times put him at odds with the mainstream Zionist organizations.

He was also a renowned author, journalist and translator who was born in Odessa, Russia in 1880. During World War I he co-founded a Jewish Legion of British army made of Jewish volunteers who fought for liberation of Palestine from the Ottoman rule. His goal was to earn enough credibility and influence that would allow him to demand an establishment of an independent Jewish state.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky died suddenly while visiting in New York in 1940 at the age of 59 and was buried in Long Island. In his will, Jabotinsky asked to be buried in Zion when Jewish State has become a reality and it's government would allow the relocation of his remains. It took until 1964 and the decision of then prime minister, Levi Eshkol, to order the reburial of Ze'ev Jabotinsky at Mount Herzl. The ceremony that followed was just as grand as that of Herzl's burial.

On the northern slope of Mount Herzl is located a military cemetery which initially was reserved for the soldiers who fell during a War of Independence of 1948 and Jewish soldiers killed during during the World War II, but later became a burial place for those who were killed in action during all Israeli wars.

Over 4000 people are buried there, the overwhelming majority of them young men and women. Lush vegetation and retaining walls divide the parts of to the military cemetery into smaller sections where the fallen soldiers are buried according to the particular wars where they fell. The graves are not divided based on the rank of the deceased, as the general could be buried next to the copral.

To the west of the military cemetery is Yad Vashem, a memorial museum which commemorates the Holocaust. It was established according to Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust and Remembrance Day law enacted by Knesset on August 19, 1953 and signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion. It is dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis and to the heroism of Jewish resistance. Memorial services are held throughout Israel every year on the 27th of Nissan, according to the Hebrew calendar, but the main remembrance ceremony is held at Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem site is made up of 30 sites that include memorials, museums and libraries. Among those sites stands out the Hall of Remembrance, built in 1961. It contains the eternal flame where heads of states pay their respects to the victims of the Holocaust. Next to the flame is situated a crypt containing ashes of victims brought from the concentration camps. On the floor are the names of those Nazi concentration camps and hundreds of other killing sites that existed all over Europe.

Hall of Remembrance by Amos Ben Gershon

                Hall of Remembrance by Amos Ben Gershon, Government Press Office. Israel.

The Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations was established in 1962 in honor of the thousands of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Around the site trees are planted everywhere with a plaque at the base of each tree identifying a person being honored and country of his or her origin.

Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations

                                            Yad Vashem Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations

Right across the Hall of Remembrance is a walkway leading to the tall concrete tower called The Pillar of Heroism. It was dedicated to the Jews who resisted the Nazis. The inscription on the monument reads: "Now and forever in memory of those who rebelled in the camps and ghettos, fought in the woods, in the underground and with the Allied forces; braved their way to Eretz Israel; and died sanctifying the name of God".

At the bottom of the mountain is the “The valley of the Communities,” representing the communities of the Jewish Diaspora that were destroyed in the Holocaust. Valley is a massive 2.5 acre monument dug out of the natural bedrock. Viewed from above, the monument resembles the map of pre-World War II Europe. On ground level, the towering walls form a series of courtyards, one for each country in which Jews were persecuted. The names of over 5,000 Jewish communities that were destroyed or barely survived in the Holocaust are engraved on its 107 walls.

Valley of the Communities

                                                         Yad Vashem Valley of the Communities 

Israel Independence Day ceremony is held at Mount Herzl on the 5th of Liar. It is held at the Mount Herzl Plaza, where the Speaker of the Kenseth makes a speech and 12 distinguished citizens, chosen for their heroism in defense of their country or some other contributions, light up 12 ceremonial torches after the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Memorial Day is the most somber day on the Israeli calendar. A commemorative ceremony is held at Mount Herzl's military cemetery where Israel's prime minister, president and army generals gather to pay respect to the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. At 11am a a siren rings for two minutes all over the country and people stop what they are doing and stay still in silence.

Hall of Names by Milner Moshe

                    Yad Vashem Hall of Names by Milner Moshe, Government Press Office. Israel.

Mount Herzl is all about symbolism for Jewish independence and remembrance of the causes that led Jews to strive for their national identity. It is also about the staggering price the Jewish nation had to pay to get to this point and about the veneration of the heroes who gave their lives so that future generations can have a chance at survival in the cruel world that surrounds them.

An exit sign at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum provides a quote by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, an 18th century founder of Hasidism: "Forgetfulness leads to exile while remembrance is a secret of redemption". Baal Shem Tov knew what he was talking about since he lived at the time when the mass pogroms against the defenseless Jewish population of Eastern Europe was a norm. It was an adherence to their traditions and their God that allowed the Jews to survive against all odds.

It has been only 71 years since the end of the World War II but the Jew haters around the world are already tripping over each other in their fervor to deny the Holocaust despite irrefutable mountains of evidence. When it comes to hatred and ignorance the facts tend to lose their desired effect. It is not inconceivable that under the leadership of so called pseudo socialist progressives in the Western countries and Muslim radicals around the world, who dream of Israel's demise, the mass murder of six million Jews will eventually become a myth.

The words "never again" are just that, the words. Places like Yad Vashem are an important reminder of what happened and what can easily happen again. It is up to Jewish people make sure that the past is not forgotten as it is the only way to the secure the future.