March of the Living 2016 youth participants,
In less than two weeks, we will be leaving on our momentous journey - a multi-layered educational experience abound with opportunities.
The main motivation for going on this trip is to see, first hand, what happened to 6 million of our people. To a large extent, this is a journey into the imagination, as what we are looking for, no longer exists. To access this wealth of Jewish history and culture, we will go to the remnants of some of the sights where this tragedy took place, and we will use testimonies, diaries, eye-witness accounts and DVD’s to fill in the gaps. We will travel to some of the areas of great Jewish learning such as the Lublin Yeshivah, see some of the graves of great Jewish sages in the cemetery of Warsaw, and start to appreciate what was lost. We will go to 3 camps, where the magnitude of this murder will begin to be appreciated. We will meet Holocaust Survivors, Righteous Among the Nations, Polish Youth and hear heart-breaking as well as inspiring stories. We will constantly debrief what we are seeing, and we will debate some of the more nuanced and complex issues that arise.
Another layer of this journey, is to meet as many of the global participants as possible. We, on the tip of Africa, do not get the opportunity to meet Jews from all over the world, and when you see Jewish Youth from 45 countries, you will understand that you are part of something much bigger than you could have ever imagined. You will come to understand that we are all part of a huge chain that is a family, that has a responsibility towards each other.
The March itself, on Yom Hashoah, is a march of defiance and survival. The message is clear. “Hitler you failed! We are still here, and we will come back year after year, stronger than ever!” You will understand where we have come from, and where we need to be going. Hopefully your Jewish identity will become very clear to you.
In Israel, we will access many of the voices that make up this crazy, wonderful country that is ours. We will spend time with Jewish Israeli students, and Arab Israeli students. We will meet Druze and Bedoins, as well as the Ethiopian community. We will be brought up to speed by Neil Lazarus, a British authority on current Israel, and all the dilemmas facing Jews today. We will mourn with Israeli families who have lost loved ones in the various wars on Yom Hazikaron, and we will dance in the streets of Jerusalem, celebrating the creation of the State of Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut.
This is your journey, and I encourage you to grab it with both hands and get as much as possible out of it. Make it your own. Contribute where possible. Come with an open mind. I have no doubt that this is going to be an experience that will change you and stay with you forever.
I wish you and your families a wonderful Pesach.