There are many lessons and sites young Jews on Birthright Israel will never forget, and perhaps the place that impacts participants the most is Yad Vashem. The museum, known as the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953 and is the globe’s leader in Holocaust education. Tripadvisor ranks it as one of the Top 25 Museums in the World. The museum sits on 45 acres in Jerusalem and works year-round to document, commemorate, research, and educate its visitors. The German Nazis and their collaborators murdered over six million Jews during World War II, making a trip to Yad Vashem an essential educational component for each Birthright Israel group.
What is Yad Vashem?
Yad Vashem is located in Jerusalem on the Mount of Remembrance and houses several museums, memorials, and monuments to honor and commemorate the Holocaust. Each year over one million people visit Yad Vashem, including tens of thousands of Birthright Israel participants. The Yad Vashem complex allows visitors access to millions of pages of survivor testimonials, audio recordings, photographs, and video content. The main museum is the Holocaust History Museum, which houses authentic artifacts and allows visitors to understand the Shoah in-depth. Also within the complex are the Museum of Holocaust Art, Exhibitions Pavilion, and those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
The Importance of Holocaust Education on Birthright Israel
A visit to a Shoah (Holocaust, from the Hebrew word for “catastrophe”) heritage site is a mandatory educational element for each Birthright Israel trip. Therefore, every Birthright Israel experience incorporates a meaningful and well-contextualized encounter with the Shoah, introducing its place in Jewish life, Israel, and its relation to the Jewish narrative in today’s world.
While at Yad Vashem or another approved Shoah heritage site, Birthright Israel groups also hear a personal testimony from a Holocaust survivor and may even meet a survivor in person. “Never Again” becomes the theme of an animated and emotional discussion for participants when they explore the connection with the Holocaust and issues concerning today’s antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
What Birthright Israel Participants Say About Yad Vashem
Holocaust education for many young Diaspora Jews may have consisted of reading a few books throughout school or hearing stories passed down from older generations. A visit to Yad Vashem on Birthright Israel is a moving and emotional experience and encounter with Jewish history many have not had before.
“Walking the halls of Yad Vashem and throughout Mount Herzl helped me to realize the importance of a Jewish nation and how it cannot be taken for granted. We must stay vigilant in ensuring Israel’s future, now and forever.”
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Sam’s Experience →
“…I think another significant takeaway was going to Yad Vashem and learning about the history of the Holocaust in Italy, where my family is from. It was very emotional for me, but it made me want to learn more and go back home and learn more about my Nonna’s experience. It inspired me to record her stories and share them with others.”
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Alana’s Experience →
“The museum was the amplest proof I have ever seen that the Holocaust occurred. Although I know it did happen, as I have heard about it all my life, even from survivors during my years in Hebrew School, it was painful to see and comprehend all Yad Vashem showed us. It increased my desire to speak and write about these atrocities.”
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Avery’s Experience →
More About Birthright Israel’s Educational Components
The Birthright Israel program is the largest educational program in the Jewish world, reaching over 800,000 young Jewish adults worldwide. So, whether you want to know more about the significance of a hike up Masada, our geopolitical lectures, Israeli’s technology scene, or why participants visit Tzfat — it’s all covered in our sample itinerary.