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Published: October 6th 2009
The two weeks since my amazing stay on the goat farm with Dalia and Amnon have passed in a blur of activity. I arrived back in Haifa fairly shattered and was glad of a good hot shower and long nights, peaceful sleep, no howling dogs, bleating goats or sheep to keep me awake here!
April the 20th around 8pm marks the start of the Holocaust Memorial day
, all the shops, bars, businesses close at around 7ish and everyone goes home to watch the television, which is a non stop catalogue of the awful things that happened to the Jews in the second world war. For each memorial day they have a theme and this year it was children. So you can imagine it was fairly upsetting to witness what had happened to the children during the war. However it was also quite uplifting in some ways to listen to different people recount their time in the concentration camps as children, to see how they have turned out as adults and to admire the fact that it did not break them.
There were the twins who were used in the experiments, they must have gone through some terrible things, but they said they only talk to each other about it. Despite the fact that they did not expect to be able to have children, they both now have children and grandchildren, and they were such happy smiley people. There was also the woman who said goodbye to her mother on a train bound for the camps, and was then lifted down to the ground by adults, as the train was moving, and left in the hope that she would survive. She was about eight at the time, can you imagine how that must have felt, and the effect of leaving your mother in that way. There were many, many more sad and incredible stories of how children lived to tell the tale but I won’t go on for now.
The next day everywhere is closed, but we went out in the morning so that I could experience the tribute that is paid each year. At eleven a siren goes (if you were a tourist here it would scare you to death, as you would think the town was under attack, just like the WW2 air raid siren). Every car stops and the occupants get out, all the people on the street just stop, and for two minutes there is an eerie silence and stillness, it sends a real shiver down the spine.
April the 22nd saw me return to Yodefat, not to the goat farm but to a cave halfway up a mountain. Dalia and Amnon had told me of a concert that was being held in the cave. It was such wonderful setting for a concert, the stage was at the bottom/back of the cave and the seating (on the ground) was like an amphitheatre looking into the cave. There were about fourteen members of the band, and the music was Sufi music, using centuries old instruments and voice. A real treat, to experience. After there were campfires on the hill and sweet sage tea or cardamom coffee, and some food. Here I met up with Brent and Leo from the farm and joined them in a glass of local (not so good) wine, and arranged that they would come to stay with me in Haifa on Brents’ way to the airport.
April 25th again saw me back in Yodefat (am getting a bit worried about this) as I was invited to a batmizvah, for the young cousin of Ram. This was quite a lovely gathering, and the family put on a play, there were speech’s, and again some lovely food, (yes my trousers are starting to feel a little tight).
April 26th, in the evening I met up with Leo, Brent and Marina, (the girl who replaced me at the farm), and we all went into town for some supper and a beer. It is lovely to be able to walk along the beach at gone midnight and find a café open
for coffee and yet more food in the form of chocolate cake. We then went home and the boys stayed for the night, after breakfast got Leo to the train back to Yodfat, then Brent (who rather luckily for me used to work in a bike shop) helped me put my bicycle together, it is lovely, and so light to ride, now I have to brave all the hills and mountains round here on it, once I am used to the gears and the cleats.
April 27th/28th marked yet another memorial day
, this time it was for the soldiers
, it started in the same way as the holocaust memorial, with non stop television coverage of storied of lost and brave men and women. In the morning we went up to the local school to see the ceremony there, rather sad as after the marching and the bugle, there was a role call of all the students from that school who had died in the conflicts over here.
Then followed a long walk down the hill into Haifa (downtown) to the military cemetery. On the way, another siren and another two minutes of silence and no movement, spooky. The cemetery was just packed with families at the graves of their brothers/sisters/children, all soldiers lost in battle over the years. This was more formal, with a salute by gunfire at the end, and of course the Israeli national anthem sung by the whole congregation, very moving. In the afternoon, I was able to witness yet another tribute to the lost at a Kibbutz, this I found lovely. When we arrived, it was a very quite rural village. Within 15 minutes people started to arrive in cars from all over, and from what seemed to be out of bushes, local homes, barns, off tractors, all on foot, heading for the cemetery, where there was a very informal ceremony which consisted of a prayer, a reading, and a poem. Then the local children walked in twos carrying a flower filled wreath for each grave, which they then placed. After this a flame was lit for each dead soldier from the Kibbutz, and the list of names was read out, followed again by the national anthem, sung by all. Just as quickly as everyone appeared they seemed to disappear, back to their business of the day. I feel very lucky to have been part of this and to witness it, it was fascinating and what I see as a bit of real Israel.
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