Our day began with Olaf (our German guide for our Holocaust trip) meeting us in Mevesseret where Shalmi lives and then driving to Jerusalem about 20 minutes away.
Our first visit of the day was to the Israel Museum located in Jerusalem. The Israel Museum is largely an art museum, but also exhibits some of the most ancient artifacts and documents in our world. We were able to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in Kumran near the Dead Sea. The vast majority of the scrolls are written in Hebrew and a few in Greek and Aramaic. We learned a great deal about the scholarship that has gone into translating and interpreting these documents and the religious debates over the interpretation.
The Israeli art exhibits were very interesting and without Shalmi's interpretations and explanations we would never have understood the value they hold for Israeli life. In particular, there was a sculpture in the main entrance way to the first exhibit that Shalmi made Olaf and I deconstruct ! Well, we needed some help, but this modern sculpture portrayed the struggles, conflicts and sense of unity that Israel was built upon. As we moved through the exhibition we saw many modern artists portray the contemporary and historical struggles of the Jews, some reflecting the creation of Israel and all its war. As we moved to the outdoor exhibits, we saw a model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period and Shalmi explained each aspect of the city and described what remains today.
After leaving the Israel Museum we went to the Jewish Market for lunch and had hummus, falafel and pita which we were looking forward to all day, at least Olaf and I were !
We later went into the Old City and Shalmi took us to meet a friend, a pastor at the Christ Church. We received a personnel tour and learned a great deal about these mostly American Jews who converted to Christianity. As dusk was approaching and we heard the Muslim call for prayer, it caused me to think about the many religions that are represented today in this ancient city. I asked the pastor if there was inter-faith cooperation amongst these groups. He explained to me that there aren't official committees like in America, but the reality is that they live amongst eachother and they have to find ways to cooperate. He said that one area that they all seem to have in common is helping the needy within their communities regardless of religious affiliation.
The evening ended with a lovely dinner at Shalmi's home in which he invited some neighbors. The hospitality in this country is incredibly heart warming ! Tomorrow I will be going to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum and later in the evening I will be having dinner with Meriam and Shlomo. In 1998 Meriam and I were connected through Yad Vashem and we had our students discuss the Holocaust through the use of email and chat rooms, in those days we didn't have videoconferencing technology. Meriam has since retired from teaching. We have remained friends all these years and I last saw her in 2002 when she came to New York. The last time I was in Israel in 1999 I had Shabbat at her home and met the entire family. It will be very nice to see them and catch up.