Why visiting Yad Vashem is not enough….
Published: 22 March 2005
Briefing Number 135
On 14 March 2005, Israel’s new holocaust museum
at Yad Vashem was opened. The following editorial appeared
that day in the Jerusalem Post:
Dozens of dignitaries are in Israel today for the opening of
Yad Vashem`s new museum , an important event in and of itself….
Such a distinguished international influx does not show up here
every day; in fact there’s been nothing to compare to
it since the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin almost a decade ago.
Taking this opportunity to address our distinguished guests
directly, we would like to suggest a number of points of interest
beyond Yad Vashem.
See a hospital
At Hadassah University hospital, as at many hospitals here,
you could see Jews and Arabs working side by side and being
treated together. You’d hear from emergency room personnel
what it’s like when dozens of casualties arrive almost
simultaneously and doctors and nurses have to put back together
what a suicide bomber has blown apart.
At Shaare Zedek hospital you could see the legacy of Dr. David
Applebaum, chief of the emergency room, who was himself blown
up, with his daughter Naava, at a Jerusalem café the
night before Naava was to be married.
Ride a bus
Buses have become a favourite target of suicide bombers, since
so many people can be targeted within a small, enclosed space.
Talk to the drivers, passengers and security people who ride
them, and try to understand the quiet determination of commuters
who have continued to ride buses for the last four years.
Visit Kfar Saba
Speak with the mayor of this or some other Israeli town where
the security fence now prevents suicide bombers easily reaching
In this Palestinian town, once known as the “capital”
of suicide bombings , you won’t hear much good about Israel.
But you might ask the town’s denizens to confirm that
there are fewer Israeli military raids since the northern section
of the security fence was built, and they might tell you how
the economy of the city has began to revive.
Visit a “refugee camp”
Jenin is as good a place as any to see one. Ask why people are
living in what is essentially an urban slum and why they are
still there after generations. Inquire why, after billions of
dollars in international assistance, they still have no decent
housing. Ask why they are being told they will “return”
to cities in Israel that they have never seen, like Acre and
Talk to the residents of this long standing Jerusalem neighbourhood,
which Palestinians call a “settlement”. You’ll
see a community now rimmed with a concrete barrier to block
sniper fire from the Arab neighbourhood across the valley.
Stop by the Knesset
Don’t miss a debate in which Israeli Arab MKs are shouting
down the Prime Minister. Ask one of these MKs to describe their
terrible mistreatment as Israeli Arabs, then see if you can
find a member of any of the parliaments in neighbouring states
who are permitted to say a word of criticism of their governments.
Browse a newsstand
Compare the variety of local newspapers with those available
in Ramallah, Cairo, Amman, Damascus or Beirut. Try to find a
single fully independent newspaper or editor there willing or
able to criticize his own government in print.
Talk to some Soldiers
Ask them what it’s like to search for terrorists house-to-house,
or to stand at a checkpoint, trying not to make more enemies
while preventing the next attack. Ask them about disengagement,
the prospects for peace, when and where their fathers fought,
and what there hopes are for their children.
These stops would not do justice to the “other”
Israel, the ethnic-polyglot,
hi-tech powerhouse that rarely makes it onto the front pages.
Your explorations here would also be no substitute for a tour
of the Arab world, where you would find that even among elites
of countries at “peace” with us an almost total
boycott against normalization with Israel continues.
What you would gain from such a short tour is some context
for understanding Israel’s position on the questions that
foreign governments routinely feel they have every right to
weigh in on: how we should safeguard our security and pursue
peace. With this goal in mind, we hope you have an enlightening
A visit to Yad Vashem undeniably provides part of the context
for the creation of Israel. But the visits recommended in this
Jerusalem Post editorial provide the context for modern-day
Israel. Visiting Yad Vashem is no substitute for seeking to
understand Israel’s perspective on the challenges it faces
Related Beyond Images Briefings
Briefing 78: Palestinian suicide bombings
Briefing 110: Israel’s medical support
for Palestinian society
Briefing 12: On the killing of Dr David
Applebaum and his daughter
Briefing 102: How the security fence is
bringing stability to Jenin
Briefing 53: The rights of Israeli Arab