Thousands of IDF soldiers visit the Yad Vashem Museum each year. Those soldiers are guided through the museum by fellow soldiers trained specifically for this important job. Two soldier-guides tell us about their daily dealings with the memory of the Holocaust, the emotional moments with the soldiers and the most touching exhibits in the museum.
The Yad Vashem Museum is Israel’s official institute for commemorating the memory of the Holocaust. The Museum is in charge of documenting the history of the Jewish people before and during the Holocaust, commemorating the story of the lives of millions and imparting the memory of the Holocaust to future generations.
Each year millions of people visit the museum, including tourists, students and world leaders. A large portion of the visitors are also IDF soldiers. These soldiers are guided through the museum by fellow soldier-guides from the Education corps. Their job is to take soldiers through the museum and introduce them to the subject of the Holocaust and the revival of the Jewish people.
“I drafted as an education instructor. I really wanted to get this job,” says Sgt. Tal Hagy, one of the soldier-guides in the museum. “After the regular education course, my friend Roni and I went through an intensive month and a half of learning and many exams in order to be qualified as Yad Vashem guides. In the beginning, I wasn’t aware of the job’s existence, but once I heard of it, I knew it was want I wanted. I personally connected with the subject–my family is very connected with the Holocaust.”
The Importance of the Role
Sgt. Tal’s family narrowly escaped destruction in Europe. “My grandparents made Aliyah (immigrated) from Romania. Back in 1939, when WWII had begun, they tried to escape from Romania.They ran into many difficulties since no one wanted to hide them.” Later on her family journeyed until they arrived to Israel: “They walked all the way to France, rode bikes across long distances and eventually sailed to Israel.”
Sgt. Roni Tzach is also a museum guide in Yad Vashem. When she was asked about the importance of a soldier as a museum guide, she firmly replied, “It creates a different impression when a soldier is talking to a soldier, rather than a citizen talking to a soldier.” Sgt. Tzach explained that “It’s like talking from the same eye level, communicating from the same source of feeling. There is a unique understanding between soldiers, which doesn’t exist between other people and helps convey more deeply the meaning of the visit to the museum.”
According to Sgt. Tzach, the visits to Yad Vashem “connect soldiers to the history of their nation. The moment soldiers understand what happened in the past, their feelings to protect the nation strengthen. The connection between the soldiers and Yad Vashem is not always innate–some have little connection to the Holocaust–but at the moment they see their history, they are reminded of their duty.”
The most meaningful part
Inside the museum, each guide has their own place where they feel most connected. Sgt. Hagey finds the ‘Hall of Souls’ a difficult but important place. “All the names and the details of all the people who were murdered are inside that hall. The gallery is painful but extends responsibility to all those who have been there. It’s the place that touches me the most.”
As part of being soldier-guides, they work with a diverse group of people. But when Roni guided a group of soldiers of whom none were Jewish, it was most meaningful to her. “When we guided the Herev Battalion (the all-Druze battalion), I met soldiers who never talked about this subject before, to whom I needed to explain where’s Europe, where’s Poland. They really have no connection, and when I saw this, that I really got through to them and left them with something to think about, it was incredible for me. Their ‘thank you’ at the end of their tour was really emotional for me.”
These soldier-guides receive quite a lot of responses for their work, both by Israelis and many abroad. “When people tell me how they think my job is necessary and important, to pass on the memory of the Holocaust, these are my most exciting moments,” said Sgt. Tzach.