Poland Trip

“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.

I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.

​I believe in G-d even when He is silent.”​

Anonymous.

That statement sounds so obvious. Of course I believe in the sun, love and G-d! That’s easy, ​or at least that’s what I thought ​ before going​ to Poland for a week with Yeshivat​ Hakotel.

Before we went to the first camp, they handed​ out Israeli flags to wear, but I​ decide​d ​​to put it​ in my pocket, and would wear it​ when I felt like​ it.​

This is the reason why.

​In that camp, everything was still there​. The gas chambers, the crematorium, the barracks, and the watch towers. We walked into​ the “bath house”, as the sign​ said. You see the​ showers, and we entered​ a dark room with almost​ no light​. You see blue paint on the walls, almost like someone spilled it​.​

Yitzi, our tour guide, started to speak. He asked ​us to close our eyes.

“Imagine this.Your mothers and sisters come into this room, after standing outside in the harsh winter. They are naked and packed into ​this small ​room with no where to move.

Not only was it uncomfortable and embarrassing, but heart-wrenching, as daughters cried out to their mothers.”

We saw scratchings on the walls, where little girls tried to climb up, just to reach some air.

My heart stopped, my mind stopped, my limbs​ stopped, but my eyes could not take it.

This was the first time in my life that I cried in public.

In that gas chamber, we sang songs, we said Shema, and we connected​.​

One song in particular that I had a hard time singing was “נקדש את שמך… לדור ודור הללויה”, “We will sanctify Your name, from generation to generation, Halleluya.”

​How did people stand in these gas chambers and say this? They were about to die.

I am in the exact same place, and I get to live!

It’s not fair!

I gripped onto the flag in my pocket, not forgetting G-d.

“Everything happens for a reason”, I told myself.

Every second I was in that gas chamber, I was thinking about those people screaming and crying for G-d’s help. It made it harder to sing, ​and just made my tears fall faster.

As we continued to sing, I realized how true the song is. We came back to the place they died to sing a song of praise to Hashem.

In truth, we are reliving their lives and taking revenge on Hitler, yimachshemo, by being alive and Jewish.

I had learned about the Holocaust in school, but there is something totally different when you’re actually there.

It’s unfathomable! Every time I thought about it, I squeezed harder on to the flag in my pocket.

I just couldn’t comprehend how G-d could do that to the Jewish people. We are alive today,​ but six million perished!

I felt a distance between me and G-d, mixed with anger and depression.

Suddenly everyone started singing “Am Yisrael ​Chai.” Everyone was singing and dancing, but I was unable to join in.

Mr. Weiser, the Holocaust survivor who came with us, stood in the middleof the circle with an​ Israeli flag on his back and a ​ Sefer Torah in​ his ha​nds.

But it was his smile that changed my perspective.

All of a sudden, the Sefer Torah, the flag, and a Holocaust survivor’s smile helped me overcome​ my feelings of anger.​

I took out my flag and hung it on my back.

My perspective changed on this trip. I was always​ a pret​ty serious learner, but I ​didn’t put in enough effort.​

I thought about the Jews during the Holocaust who didn’t have that opportunity.

Our guide told us that he heard someone say that since a third of the Jewish people perished​ in the Holocaust, we must put​ in the extra Torah​ learning that they​ would’v​e ​learned.

We have that responsibility. Now I work harder,  taking on more goals than ever before.

I pray that I will believe in the sun even when it’s not shining, and I pray I will believe in G-d even when He is silent.

About the Author
Gabriel Katz is seventeen years old and is currently studying at Yeshivat Hakotel for the year. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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