(As a sidebar, Ursula and I visited Yad Vashem a few years ago with a parliamentary group, and I remember the heavy impression it made on us. Since then, we have also visited the Auschwitz concentration camps in Poland, so this time I felt we had a broader context to assimilate some of the information being presented here. The impression remained powerful.)
When you arrive at the museum, located in a lovely setting amongst the pine trees on top of a steep hill, the first hint of what's to come is the sign that states 'children under 10 years of age are not allowed to enter'. A few minutes into a visit, it's easy to see why. The images and narratives are stark and haunting. We stayed less than 2 hours - an unusually short visit for this place- and Ursula and I wondered after we left how much George and Molly had absorbed. I hope it was something, but maybe not too much.
Looking back over the past few days, it seems like every time the kids ask a question, I have to take a deep breath, and go back decades (or centuries) to give some historical context so that my answer (if I have one) will make some sense. (All my former staff are laughing at this point.) As you know, in the Middle East we're talking about a conflict that's been going on for thousands of years.
For example, one thing every first-time visitor to Israel notices is the sight of young soldiers everywhere. To be more specific, it is a jarring sight to see a young women (who could easily be my niece Lauren) dressed in army fatigues with a machine gun slung across her shoulder walking down the street chatting with her friends, who also carry automatic weapons.
Even last night, when we were taking the evening off from serious stuff to catch a movie at the local Cinema City (Spectre for George and me; Love the Coopers for Molly and Ursula), we were confronted with the realities of daily life here. That's because, to get into a mall in Israel, you have to pass through airport-like security, complete with walk-thru metal detectors. This was a stark reminder that for Israelis, security precautions and terrorist threats are a daily reality.
In some ways, it's been interesting to be in Israel in the days following the terrorist attacks in Paris. While people in places like France and Canada react in shock and horror, people here take it in stride. They've seen it and lived through this (and worse) before. Ironically, they probably figure that terrorist attacks in Europe and North American help us to better understand the 'realpolitik' view of the world that Israelis have developed over the past 70 years. That's not an uplifting thought, but I think it's an unavoidable part of reality we all must learn to accept and deal with.