During my stay in Jerusalem I went to visit Yad Vashem, the museum/organization dedicated to remembering, preserving and telling the history of the holocaust as completely as possible. Actually it isn't possible to visit Israel and trying to understand the culture and country without a visit to Yad Vashem.
It's an impressive visit, not easily forgotten, and (as always) almost surreal that anything like this really happened. Though there are many impressions sticking with me, there's one in particular that I had to think about for quite some time. Almost at the end of the exhibition there's a poem in large red and black letters on the wall. The text "And praised be the LORD" is interrupted by the names of the extermination camps used in the holocaust. The poem is like this:
And praised. Auschwitz. Be. Magdenek. The LORD. Treblinka.
And praised. Buchenwald. Be. Mauthhausen. The LORD. Belzec.
And praised. Sobibor. Be. Chelmno. The LORD. Ponary.
And praised. Theresientadt. Be. Warsaw. The LORD. Vilna.
And praised. Skarzysko. Be. Bergen-Belsen. The LORD. Janow.
And praised. Dora. Be. Neuengamme. The LORD. Pustkow. And praised... Amen.
This poem depicts two extremes. On one hand it praises God, on the other hand it shows the names, the symbols, of one of the worst things humans ever did to other humans. How is it possible to still praise God in the midst of these horrible names. To me this text raises the questions about the extend of the human free will.
This text almost reads like a psalm. The repetition emphasizes, strengthens the meaning of the words, like it is used in psalm 136. Psalms were also used to express feelings or express the inexpressible. Here t is used to express this dualism. The praises, the repetition, seem to close in the words that depict this great evil. They contain them. As I stood in front of this wall, reading and re-reading (I hope you'll experience the same as you read it form your computer screen), the feeling of hope grabbed me. In the midst of all this misery there is some hope, there is a future. How visible or invisible it is. Just like a psalm.