Just outside the visitor’s center to Yad Vashem, Israel’s world-renowned Holocaust Memorial and Museum, there are long lines of young and green IDF soldiers waiting to be escorted through the various displays and memorials. These displays are set up to try and show the growing darkness that existed, the evil that was portrayed, and the hope that exists today because of the heroes that helped and because of the memorial, the “Yad Vashem”.
They are there to learn about why they fight.
Outside of the museum, pulled over along the drive that takes visitors home from their somber experience at Yad Vashem, Raeed is waiting in his taxi for his next fare. We would soon learn that he was an Arab Muslim from Jerusalem with four children, three girls and one boy.
Before leaving for the museum, Angie and I had been praying over an Israeli breakfast just outside the Old City, asking Jesus to come with us. We asked him to show us what we need to see and shield us from what we do not.
We jumped in Yusef’s taxi and were museum-bound. We had to stop a few yards later to pick up his 12-year-old son Jack, who is studying English in school. Yusef told us all about how he loves America and San Francisco. As Angie engaged them in conversation, I marveled at how diverse this land’s inhabitants truly are.
Having fought the throngs of visitors — large tour groups whose sole purpose seems to be blocking each display as we approach it — we are exhausted and disheartened. The memorial is appropriate, and the atrocities are remembered in an artful way. But it all seems so hollow. After all, how could any museum capture and memorialize something so barbaric?
This brings us back to Raeed. As we were walking outside in the 90-plus degree heat and wandering down the drive, we come across his cab. We bartered with him over the fare, and although we both know 50 shekels is fair, he still wanted 90. I agreed to his dropped-down price of 70 shekels ($18.00 US), and we were off.
“Israel is so expensive,” Angie says as I looked down at my museum brochure. In it I see where they got the name for the museum. It’s from the book of Isaiah.
I will give in my house and within my walls a “monument and a name” (Yad Vashem, in the original Hebrew) better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. — Isaiah 56:5
I am struck by this. I’m struck by how the world chooses to accept a counterfeit memorial over its real, living memorial … Jesus Christ. He is the Yad Vashem. He is the one worth fighting for. No museum could ever be a living memorial.
And as we wound through the streets of Jerusalem, back to the dorms of St. Peter’s at Gallicantu (where we’re staying), I get a chance to speak with Raeed.
“Are you a Christian or a Muslim?” I asked, and he replied that he was Muslim.
“Jesus loves you,” I told him, and his face looked curious, as if he had nowhere in his worldview to put what I was saying.
By the time we got back, we knew about his family, and we knew about how he loved Jerusalem. He even offered to take our agreed-upon price of 70 shekels down by 10, without my asking.
Yad Vashem literally means hand and name. Figuratively, it means a lasting, living memorial. I can’t think of a better way to describe Jesus when it comes to the Holocaust. He remembers because he was there. He is living because he rose again. And he is better than sons and daughters, precious as they may be.