Yad Vashem Testifies to Resilience of Human Spirit

Posted by Alex N. Daniels
March 4, 2009
Note Written by Secretary Clinton Following Visit at Yad Vashem

Interactive Travel Map | Text the SecretaryAbout the Author: Alex N. Daniels serves as Director of the American Center in Jerusalem.

The alarm rings at 4:55 a.m. and I get up, look outside and see that it’s pouring rain and foggy. I won’t go running today. The alarm rings again at 5:40 a.m., and the house wakes up. We spend the next hour and twenty minutes getting ready. My son, almost nine, needs to leave with me for school. My daughter, almost four, needs to be ready for her pickup to a school for severely handicapped children. She will be a vision in pink – even her wheelchair has pink accents. The Embassy, Consulate, and State Department have been extraordinarily supportive of our situation, which makes it much easier to work the long hours of Secretary Clinton’s first visit to Jerusalem.

We arrive at Yad Vashem at 8:30 a.m. Yad Vashem literally translates to “hand and name.” Yad, however, can also mean memorial, and so the correct translation is “The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial.” The memorial is located on top of the Mount of Remembrance in the Jerusalem Forest and is near Israel’s military cemetery. It is a large complex with many buildings, and the Secretary will spend a lot of time outside. Our site visits to organize logistics for Secretary Clinton and the press were plagued by heavy rain, sleet, and fog. Today it is overcast and windswept, but the rain from early this morning has stopped.

Our small delegation consists of the embassy’s press site officer, the Secretary’s advance press officer, and two locally employed staff. Our local staff will help to insure that this vast site is set up properly and to save spaces for the CBS crew to set up their cameras at the Hall of Remembrance and outside the Children’s Memorial, where Secretary Clinton will sign the guest book. I am the overall embassy site officer and spend most of my time working with the Diplomatic Security agent-in-charge to make sure that the site is how we want it.

10:30 a.m. the Secretary arrives, exactly on time. She is met by Chief Rabbi Lau of the Yad Vashem Council and is guided through the site. This is her fourth visit to Yad Vashem and much has changed, including a new main Holocaust Museum, and they stop along the way to view it from above. We have arranged for a tour guide to link up with the delegation of Senior Staff and they get a slightly separate tour. At this point the visit has become a whirlwind of moving people and cameras. The Secretary views a new exhibit of paintings by Bruno Schulz, who was forced to paint fairy tale scenes on the nursery walls of a Nazi officer’s home.

The wreath-laying ceremony, with Ankor Children’s choir, is perfect and we manage to get the senior staff through the Children’s Memorial ahead of the Secretary. We wait. Secretary Clinton exits the Children’s Memorial and in front of a very aggressive press pool filming, photographing, and recording, she calmly signs the book. Later we will copy down what she has written in case someone from the delegation asks. Secretary Clinton departs. The visit, by and large, a success. I am relieved and a bit deflated as I watch the motorcade drive away. We collect our things, scan the site for anything left behind, climb into our car and depart.



Illinois, USA
March 4, 2009

Terence in Illinois writes:

It looks like she already forgot the lessons of the Holocaust in Gaza. Shame on America for helping Israel to oppress the Palestinian people.

March 5, 2009

Ruth in Israel writes:

The words written by the Secretary at Yad Vashem in combination with her signature and the date of March 3 have particular significance for me: my father, who survived the Holocaust, married my mother in the United States on that day in the 1950's. Thank you for posting this!

I cannot ignore the first comment submitted here, but instead of trying to formulate something I will let this Israeli reserve soldier's words make a point, and then if you really wish to continue attempting such a comparison you can ask yourself if you can see a Nazi writing something like this: please read http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=42581 or search the internet for "soldier who slept in your home".

You are fortunate to be living in the U.S., "judging" some very disturbing realities from afar. Please give the U.S. government a bit more respect! and help spread the word that hateful words can kill.

March 12, 2009

Neta in Israel writes:

Nice evaluation Terence.

Ruth -- how can you live so close to the situation and not understand anything about it? Israelis are even more poorly informed than Americans.

I am so happy that your parents survived the holocaust. That doesn't give us the right to oppress the Palestinians in their own land.

We follow the UN resolutions we like, we ignore those we don't. We treat the Palestinians in ways that are closer to the oppression we've felt in other countries than any of us can admit.

Our past is shameful. Our present is unforgivable. It's time to work out a peaceful solution.

If you are going to sit close and judge, you should get some information from both sides.

United States
May 7, 2009

James in U.S.A. writes:

thanks for explaining this.


Latest Stories

March 7, 2011

DipNote: The Week in Review

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, Managing Editor Luke Forgerson recaps the week that was, including testimony… more