on History Tour
By Nancy Cook, Beau Miles and Cindy Jones
St. Paul's Anglican Grammar School
St. Paul's historians (young and old) discovered the historic treasures of Europe and the Middle East. From the horrors of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, to the ancient remains of Troy and Ephesus, from the rugged cliffs of Gallipoli, to the strategic battlefields of the Golan Heights, from Jewish resistance to the Romans at Masada, to the contemporary struggle between the Jews and Palestinians. It was a life journey for all.
As the plane touched down in Berlin, we began the first leg of our journey through Europe and the Middle East. We arrived at about 6:00 P.M. local time, met our host families and were whisked away to all parts of Berlin. The families we stayed with were a part of the community of the Thomas Mann Oberschule (a school in Berlin).
We spent a day at the school mixing with the other students, all of whom were our age or a little older. We attended an English class and found that their English was far better than any of our German, and even better than some of our group's English! We then attended a Political Science class and discussed some of the touchy issues related to the Holocaust and how it was impacting on their lives and relationships with foreign people.
For the next couple of days we toured Berlin, shopping and basically soaking up the atmosphere of Europe. We visited Wannesse Villa as a part of our Holocaust studies. This was the site where Hitler's "henchmen" made the decision on the "Final Solution." We also visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp; it was a chilling place. The below freezing temperatures as well as the images of death and torture made it a very demanding and challenging visit for us all.
We ended the Berlin visit with a farewell party with our host families, and after exchanging birth dates and addresses, we hit the town for one last night in Berlin before going home to get some sleep before our flight back to Rome and then on to Turkey.
We had an excellent time in Berlin. A big thanks must go to Eckhard Rieke, the teacher from Thomas Mann who was a wonderful host and tour guide.
A late night flight is an experience all seasoned travelers must endure at some time. We left Antalya (southern Turkey) at 2:30 A.M. and arrived in Tel Aviv at 3:30.
Our first taste of Israel was exploring the streets of Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon as the hustle and bustle of a city came to a stop for shabbat (the Sabbath). It was the beginning of many interesting and enlightening experiences we were to have in Israel. The city of Jerusalem is sacred to the three great religions of the world -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are all located in the heart of the old city. The historical significance of this place was emphasized during 1996 by the Jerusalem 3000 celebrations, 3000 years of continuous settlement.
As well as the history, there is so much contemporary action to absorb and observe as the struggle to find peace between the Jew and the Palestinians goes on. A trip to Masada provided further opportunity to learn about the history of Jewish people. Their struggle and ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the face of Roman invasion, has been an inspiration to the Jewish people of this century, as they have fought to proclaim and protect their nation.
An important focus for our stay in Israel was the three day course of study undertaken at Yad Vashem (the Israel Holocaust center). We were challenged to see the many different sides of this tragedy, and the following statement by Pastor Niemöller highlighted for many of us just how an individual could be swallowed up as the realities of the Holocaust took hold:
"First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak out for me."
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