Barry and I visited Yad Vashem when we were here 6 years ago. Because of that visit, and our visit to Auchwitz in Poland since then, I was more prepared to see and hear the images that can easily haunt a person. The museum does not permit visitors under 10 years old, and I can see why; it's too much in terms of content and emotion. We did not take our children there lightly.
Molly was annoyed that we'd chosen to go to this "boring" museum, but we tried to impress on her how the Holocaust was a huge part of the 20th century, and we hoped that our generations would learn from what happened then. The audio guides were informative, but almost too much so. The kids quickly tuned them out, and I stopped listening to mine and tired to pick one feature from each room to help the kids understand what they were seeing. The task was challenging, and emotional. I'm the person who gets teary-eyed at everything: a sad children's story, an emotional bible story, or tragic newspaper articles; I can't read them aloud without getting choked up. It's a good thing the kids are used to this side of me, because on several occasions yesterday they had to listen to me explain how and why atrocities happened. They politely listened and, as usual, didn't tease me about being overly emotional. They are kind.
There were times I know that the kids did not process what was before them, and there were other times you could see their eyes widen with comprehension. Molly saw a photo of a girl about her age, and she said, "Mom, my friend Sarah is Jewish." I replied that I knew that and if this had happened in Ottawa last year when she was there, Sarah would have been take away with her family and we would not have. It's a horrible thing to have to say to your child but I could see by making it personal she was starting to understand.
"Why?" is the trickiest question to answer sometimes, and the one that requires the least reason when explaining the past. How do you tell your kid that it's just because her friend is a Jew? That's it! The decision involved no crime, just ethnicity. One of the biggest goals on this trip is to help our kids see that they are global citizens: just one of many. I think yesterday helped them see that.
George seemed to coast through the exhibit as any bored teenager might, but near the end he saw a video of bodies being bulldozed into ditches. Though he has seen graphic tv, movies and video games, this image was overpowering for him. He mentioned it with puzzled eyes again today. Molly was also really bothered by the images of the terribly skinny concentration camp inmates in rags. Hopefully these images don't haunt them, that wasn't the point, but on the other hand, we hope they have some respect for the past.
Today we visited the zoo. No school work, just fun.
We spent a sunny and warm day strolling in and around animal exhibits. The idea behind the zoo is that they displayed as many historically indigenous animals as possible. For example, the Persian leopard used to roam these hills, but are now reduced to a more easterly territory.
In one of the aviaries, Molly and I fed some birds. One got rather aggressive after I took my cup away from him to share with another. He hopped on my back, nibbled my hair and bit my ear. It hurt rather badly, but no blood was drawn thankfully. Barry was very convincing that birds don't carry rabies, but he had no reply when I was worried about Avian Flu.