We spent the final day in Warsaw seeing the Warsaw Cemetery, Umschlagplatz, Mila 18 Memorial, Rapaport Memorial and time with some Polish teens. Below is a post from a student on his experience in Poland:
We are currently on our way to Israel. After spending the past four days touring in both Krakau and Warsaw (three days in Krakau and one day in Warsaw) I have taken time on the plane to reflect on what I have experienced. Krakau at first was nothing special. It was an old city that didn't seem to have much life. The structures were old and it didn't seem to be very modernized. The "highlighted" part of Krakau was going to Auschwitz and Birkenau to truly experience what our people, as well as many others (many Poles as well as gypsies and homosexuals) experienced when they were brought, not by choice, to those camps. Our tour guide Élan told us while at Birkenau that we should take a moment aside from the sadness we feel for our people to be happy because we had the choice to walk through the front gates of the camp, and like a vast majority of people from the Holocaust didn't have, we have the freedom to walk back out. That truly put the camps into perspective for me because that made me take a step back from reality and think about what it must have felt like to be taken by train car to the camps. The following day we went to Majdanek where we witnessed a beautiful, yet powerful, memorial for those lost at Majdanek. The large stone structure which towered over our heads stood at the front of the camp in front of the gate. Past the memorial, the concentration camp appeared to continue on forever. The barracks were all standing in the same condition as they were close to 71 years ago. As we continued our tour, I felt as though the camp was still in such condition that there was a possibility for it being operational today. As we continued into the crematorium, this thought still lingered in my mind. As we approached the end of the tour at Majdanek, we all gathered around a mass grave with close to 17 tons of ashes from people murdered in the holocaust. We joined together in singing the Ha'Tikva which was a very powerful moment within our time in Poland. For our final day in Poland, spent in Warsaw, we experienced a massive cemetery that had thousands of Jews and Poles buried there in multiple layers of the earth. We continued the day visiting what was once the ghetto and has since then been knocked down and rebuilt, but still contains memorials on a few blocks. We left the ghetto after getting a tour of it from Élan then continued our day at a Polish high school where we got to talk with Polish teens. We had a question and answer session with them in the late afternoon and got to know all about Poland as well as being a teen there. It was truly amazing to compare life in America to the life of those two high school students from Poland. The similarities in life surprised me just because how alike our lives were to one another. We finished our time in Poland all together at dinner before heading to the airport that night. It was truly an experience that I will carry with me both in Israel as well as the rest of my life.
Arrival in Israel
Our day was full of so much with arriving in Israel at 3:30am, heading to Palmachim Beach south of Tel Aviv for the sunrise and time on the beach, heading to Jerusalem to go the Kotel (Western Wall - where the ISTers read their letters from home), Hass Promenade, Hezekiah's Tunnel and finishing at Maaleh HaHamisha for our first Shabbat in Israel!!