The new exhibit at Yad Vashem features artworks, artifacts, diaries, letters and testimonies that illustrate how Jews yearned for Eretz Israel during and immediately following the Shoah, from 1933-1948. (photo from Ashernet)
“I see a sign that we will meet each other face-to-face in our land, our homeland, Eretz Israel,” wrote 10-year-old Eliezer Rudnik in 1937 to his aunts who had immigrated to Palestine.
The letter, written in Hebrew, is surrounded by his parents’ writing, in Yiddish, as there was a lack of paper. Aryeh and Sarah Rudnik and their son, Eliezer, were the only Jews living in the Ukrainian village of Kosmaczow – they were shot and killed by Nazis in 1942. Eliezer’s letter is just one of the hundreds of items now on display at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in a new exhibition, They Say There is a Land: Longing for Eretz Israel during the Holocaust.
The exhibit, which opened May 30 in the Auditorium Exhibitions Hall of Yad Vashem’s Museums Complex, features artworks, artifacts, diaries, letters and testimonies collected by Yad Vashem over the years, all of which illustrate how Jews yearned for Eretz Israel during and immediately following the Shoah, from 1933-1948. It is divided into three sections.
The first section presents how Jews viewed their connection to and longing for the Land of Israel during the rise of the Nazi party to power in Germany, until the outbreak of the Second World War. It was during this period that Jews searched for asylum in various countries, including Eretz Israel.
The second section focuses on the years 1940-1944, from the period of the ghettos to extermination. During this stage, Jewish communities in Europe dwindled and, under their daily struggle for survival, many Jews found themselves distanced from Eretz Israel to the point of disengagement; however, their hearts’ yearning for the land remained.
The third and final section focuses on the period immediately after the Holocaust – the displaced persons camps in Europe and the detention camps in Cyprus, and the establishment of the state of Israel. At this time, many survivors felt that only in Israel would they be able to regain their stature and build a full Jewish communal and personal life.
“The longing for Zion and the Land of Israel has been a cornerstone of Jewish identity for generations, manifested in many different forms,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said at the exhibition’s opening. “While the Zionist movement was not embraced by the majority of Jews in Europe during the Nazi rise to power, through the course of the Holocaust and in its aftermath, it became increasingly popular. This exhibition portrays the ways in which Jews before, during and after the Shoah expressed their dreams for a brighter future in the Land of Israel, and their fervent hope to rebuild their lives here.”
The exhibition’s title is that of a well-known poem written by Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky in 1923 in Berlin. The poem brings up existential questions that characterized the Jewish people’s struggle in the interwar period, as well as the forces of dream versus reality, and hope versus despair.