Saturday, October 21, 2006

Har Herzel

Hello Again

It was back to lessons this week at the Machon and unless you want a complete breakdown of every lesson there is nothing of any real interest to report. On Monday however we went as a group to Har Herzel. Har Herzel is the main military cemetery in Jerusalem as well as being the resting place of many leading Zionists and politicians including Herzel and Yitchak Rabin.

Before we visited the cemetry itself we paid a trip to the Herzel museum which is attatched to the cemetry. The Herzl museum is one of those new fangled museums which relies not on exhibits but on a film, and this particular museum had far far too much funding on its hands. The museum appeated to be funded by the entire nation of Austria (which might have explained a description of Vienna as the cultrual and enlightened centre of Europe). The museum had recreated the town hall in Basel where the First Zionist Congress took place, complete with transparent statues of delegates and Herzel's original office. The museum itself was actually quite impressive, the film was as you might expect about Herzel's life, told by way of a theatre company putting on a play about Herzel. The film was was informative, although it went over the top with its Zionism (what do you expect). It was however ruined by poor dubbing and awful acting.

Har Herzel is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cemetries I have ever visited. The first thing one notes is that it is strikingly green and organised. Each grave is identical, in that they all look like beds with the gravestone made in the appearance of a pillow. There are row upon row of graves, steeped down away from the grave of Herzel standing alone at the top of the mount. At the very bottom is Yad Vashem the Holocaust Museum thus creating a symbolic rise from the Holocaust at the bottom to Herzel the founder of Zionism at the top. Throughout the graveyard there are various memorials to different events including the Jews who had fallen fighting the Nazi's in WWII, a lost submarine, the Battle for Jerusalem in 1948 (including a memorial to a 10 year old boy who was acting as a messenger) and many other events throughout Israel's history.

Perhaps the most disquietning thing about Har Herzel are the graves waiting to be dug. There is still considerable space and since the last time I was there some of that space had been filled in, and it is only a matter of time before more graves are created. It is inevitable that when touring Har Herzel with Israelis they know someone who lies there, and we were told of two people known personally by one or other of our guides. One man we were told about was a former teacher on the Machon called Nir Cohen who was killed when his tank exploded in the recent war in Lebanon, seeing his grave and listening to the testimony of those who knew him was truly a moving experience and brought a tear to many an eye of those who were present. It was a downcast and reflective group that returned to the Kiryat that evening.

Tomorrow the entire Machon is leaving the Kiryat for a week as we are going on a Tiyur (hike) in the North. It should be stated that although we will be doing some hiking we will be staying in what is meant to be very nice accomodation. I hope I shall be able to report back with a very upbeat entry next week.
And so until next time


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