If there is a more moving and powerful museum experience in the world, we've yet to encounter it. This memorial to the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis is sobering, of course, but it's also beautiful and uplifting. The museum's name was taken from Isaiah 56:5 and means ‘A Memorial and a Name’, and one of the highlights is the Hall of Names, where the names and personal details of millions of victims are recorded.
The centrepiece of the museum is the prism-like Holocaust History Museum on the lower level, with nine underground galleries telling the story of the Shoah from the Jewish perspective. The triangular design of the building represents the bottom half of a Star of David, because the population of Jews worldwide was almost cut in half as a result of the Holocaust. The galleries trace the story chronologically and thematically, and use artefacts, films, personal testimonies on video, photographs and art installations.
The Hall of Names is at one end of the museum and is organised around a hole in the floor that honours those victims whose names will never be known because they, their entire families, all their friends and everyone who had known them was killed, leaving no one to testify or say the Kaddish (Jewish memorial prayer).
Near the exit of the museum is a separate building where the Museum of Holocaust Art is located. Nearby there is an Exhibitions Pavilion housing temporary displays and a Synagogue that visitors can use for private prayer.
In the Hall of Remembrance on the ground level an eternal flame burns near a crypt containing ashes of victims brought from the death camps; the floor is inscribed with the names of 22 of the most infamous camps. Behind the hall are a number of other memorials, including the Cattle Car Memorial, one of the original train cars used to transport Jews from the ghettos to the camps. Also here is the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, established in honour of the thousands of non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Closer to the visitors centre is the extraordinarily beautiful and moving Children’s Memorial, dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. Dug into the bedrock, the sombre underground memorial contains a solitary flame reflected infinitely by hundreds of mirrors. Recorded voices read the names of children who perished. Be careful as you enter as it takes a while for eyes to adjust to the darkness.
You'll need at least three hours to walk around Yad Vashem, which is spread over 18 pine-scented hectares of the Mount of Remembrance. The JLR Mt Herzl stop is a short walk away; the journey from City Hall takes 15 minutes. When you alight from the tram, cross the road towards the forest and walk for 10 minutes up gently sloping Hazikaron St. Alternatively, wait at the bus stop for the free shuttle, which runs every 20 minutes. The Circle Line 99 city bus tour also stops here.
Note that on Thursday, many of the memorials close at 5pm (the Holocaust History Museum, Museum of Holocaust Art, Exhibitions Pavilion and Synagogue remain open until 8pm). Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of 10.