A local youth has praised Pope Francis’ decision to visit Jerusalem’s Yad Veshem holocaust memorial during his Holy Land trip, saying that it raises awareness to what the Jewish community suffered. “It’s very important that other religious people will visit this site. I mean it’s not only for Jews, but also for other cultures to see what it was,” a young man named Shai told CNA May 23. “I believe the Jews know what happened, and I think other religions need to know it too. I mean it’s part of the human history, because not only Jews were in this period of time. It’s very important.” Yad Vashem was established in 1953, just five years after the foundation of the State of Israel, as a living memorial of the Holocaust, and has become a world center for holocaust documentation, research, education and commemoration. Shai, who declares himself an atheist but comes from Jewish roots and believes “in the spirit of Judaism,” hails from Tel Aviv, Israel and was visiting the memorial with a group of friends. The memorial, he said, is “like the central, the spirit of Judaism all over the world. I mean this is part of our history and we have to remember all of the 6 million Jews who were in the holocaust.” Greek for “catastrophe,” the holocaust was the mass slaughter of roughly 6 million Jews during World War II by Nazi Germany, a party that was led by Adolf Hitler throughout the German Reich and German-occupied territories. According to Yad Vashem’s website it was founded on four pillars, and is first of all dedicated to commemorating the lives of the 6 million Jews that were killed during the holocaust, as well as to the communities that were destroyed during the warring years in order to give them an eternal remembrance. Displays in the museum contain vast amounts of historical information on the holocaust, as well as personal belongings, authentic photographs and original art done by Jews who either perished or went into hiding when the persecution began. The memorial also has an extensive database of victims’ names, which researchers are still working to expand by searching for the names and life stories of individuals. As of now close to 3.1 million Jews are listed in the database, which was added to their webpage in 2004. It is also the only organization worldwide that officially recognizes non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust. A second pillar of the memorial is to document the events that took place by collecting evidence in order to give an accurate and detailed account of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people. Housing the largest collection of holocaust documentation in the world, Yad Vashem has 125 million pages of evidence, 420,000 photographs and over 100,000 survivor testimonies that give witness to the inhumane crimes committed against the Jewish people, as well as videos. Making research another top priority, the memorial has published various documents on their historical findings, and continues to work with scholars who both investigate and examine elements of the holocaust that have not been fully uncovered. Also established by Yad Veshem is the International Institute for Holocaust Research, which organizes and facilitates numerous projects, symposiums, workshops and conferences on their findings, as well as encourages further exploration of holocaust events. Finally, the memorial also established an International School for Holocaust Studies in 1993, which offers educational programs as well as produces educational material on holocaust events. It also provides guidelines on how to approach the topic with varying ages teaches through the use of art, music, literature, theology and drama. The school contains 17 classrooms, a pedagogical center and an auditorium. The Pope’s presence here, Shai noted, is “very important for this country and for the Jews all over the world.” Regarding the fact that for the first time in history a Jewish Rabbi, Abraham Skorka of Argentina, will be among the Roman Pontiff’s delegation to the Holy Land, the youth stated that “I think this is very good.” “It makes me happy that the Pope makes a relationship with other cultures and not saying that the Catholic is the only religion in the world. I mean, you can say that but it’s not true,” Shari observed. “So he basically is trying to make peace with other religions. It’s very good, I’m very happy that he will do that.”
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