March of the Living Update: From Poland to Israel

2 May

On Wednesday we visited Majdanek, one of the death camps created and utilized by the Nazis to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust. We were first taken into the building the prisoners would first enter upon arriving at the camp. After zigzagging through several rooms in which prisoners’ hair was shorn by rusty razors or the prisoners were hosed down in either freezing cold or scolding hot showers, we entered the gas chamber. It was chilling. I touched a scraped wall where, only 70 years earlier, another 18 year old Jewish girl just like me may have been clawing for her life as she was being asphyxiated by the gas. I envisioned hundreds of mothers and fathers and children huddled together, having to watch each other die in the most horrific way. It still bothers me and always will that these gas chambers were created by human beings with the intent to murder their fellow human beings. As soon as our guide let us leave the room, I darted out.

We were taken to a barrack where hundreds of thousands of the prisoners’ shoes are kept today. This was disturbing. I touched a little shoe, and could just see the young child who wore it and rode his bike in it and played baseball in it. And then I envisioned this same child being shoved into a cattle car, deported, and gassed to death. I know this is the room where a lot of people in our March group broke down crying, but I was simply too numb to do so. Knowing these shoes were some of the last things to come into contact with the prisoners before their deaths was too much to process. Touching these shoes was almost like touching the prisoners themselves.

jamie mol

We finally went into the crematorium, which was very eerie. Rose gathered us just outside the crematorium and told us how her grandparents’ bodies were burned in that very crematorium and how not a day goes by without her wishing and praying that she had gotten a chance to meet them. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I was always very close with my Nana, and Rose’s speech made me wonder what my life would have been like if I had never had Nana. The tears poured down immediately as I pictured not only a life without my loving extended family, but also a life with the painful, unanswerable wondering as to why they were wiped away from the face of the planet so early, so unjustifiably. Finally, we saw a monument in which seven tons of human ashes are kept today. Upon learning what the monument contained, everybody in our group could not stop hugging and crying and kissing and consoling each other with the words “it will NEVER happen again.” We left Majdanek with heavy hearts, absolutely shocked by the things we had seen.

They say that even the darkest of nights turn into day. Well, our arrival in Israel from our somber week in Poland sure backs up that statement. When the wheels of the plane hit the ground in Tel Aviv, I immediately felt a thrill. Our pancake breakfast at the student hostel, our visit to the London Gardens (a beautiful park dedicated to those who fought for Israel’s independence), and our shopping spree in Carmel Market (where I got to eat SHAWARMA!!!) only added to the elation of FINALLY being home.

jamie mol in israel

 

Before dinner last night, we were allowed to walk around a cute little park, and that’s when it hit me how truly special of a place Israel is. After seeing the terror of the camps in Poland, it is incredible to be in a place where Jews can flourish, where they can pray, observe Shabbat, hang at the beach, attend school, shop in the market, go for a bike ride…….all without the persecution or hatred that has followed us as long as we’ve existed. I’ve been to Israel twice before, but this time around, I have an entirely newfound appreciation for the country. I am beyond fortunate to be on this trip, not only because it’s insanely fun (which it totally is), but also because I have gained so much more from this experience than I ever imagined I would.  I know the Jamie that returns to Sarasota will have an entirely new perspective from the Jamie that departed on April 23.

mol girls at dead sea

Jamie A. is a participant of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s 2014 March of the Living delegation.

March of the Living is presented in partnership with the Shapiro Teen Engagement Program (STEP) of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. 

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One Response to “March of the Living Update: From Poland to Israel”

  1. Aimee M May 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Jamie A, I was very touched by your words and got chills reading them. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with all of us. I think you will all come back to SRQ with a new found appreciation for your heritage.

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