It was an honor and once in a lifetime experience to participate in the March of the Living and especially to do so with my daughter, Lisa Roth. Although my background is not the same as hers, we share many of the same emotions.
While in Poland, I felt extreme sadness and anger. I will always remember being at the Yom Hashoah ceremony in Birkenau. Though I personally do not have family that perished or survived the Holocaust, I have Lisa and close friends that do. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, I wrote my wooden sign in honor/memory of their parents and relatives and was able to find some of them in The Book of Names. I left Poland with images that will last forever: the photos of families being separated and children then taken away from their mothers; the ashes at Majdanek; the mass graves at Chelmno; the cemeteries in Warsaw and Lodz; the blue walls of the gas chambers, the crematoriums, and the smoke stacks.
It was wonderful to arrive in Israel. Landing in the darkness of the night and viewing the lights of Israel was beautiful and emotional.
As an American, I have grown accustomed to Memorial Day being about parades, sales, and barbecues. Being at a Yom Hazikaron evening program at the Jerusalem JCC and Mt. Herzl during the day made me appreciate how Memorial Day should be spent. Walking through the cemetery seeing all the people by the graves and hearing some of the family stories (thanks to Jacob talking and translating) was so special. The wail of the siren went right through me. To say Kaddish and sing Hatikvah with a large group at the cemetery was overwhelming. I have been to Yad Vashem five times but going there from Mt. Herzl was different. I will never forget circling through the Children’s Memorial – listening to and knowing it takes seven years to recite all 1.5 million names of children murdered is something that stays with me.
Yom Haatzmaut was exciting and celebratory. Marching to the Kotel with thousands from across the globe was fabulous. The festivity was great. The pride and joy was exhilarating. Watching the soldiers protect the Jewish homeland and heritage makes me so proud to be such a strong supporter of the IDF and I must say how taken I am with its Cantor, Shai Abramson.
Being part of The International Adult Delegation with people from around the world was fantastic. It is so nice that we keep in touch via various forms of communication. I am glad to have already gotten together with some people since the trip and truly hope to see many more of you again in the future.
Written by Geri Roth, International Adults 2018