David Dagan’s three-part account of his time on Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek ends appropriately with an intriguing discussion of the Holocaust memorial on the kibbutz grounds—and how this intimate expression of personal grief feels more powerful than the better-known but more abstract memorial in Berlin, where the author is usually based.
Last summer, I visited the same sculpted memorial, which is still pocked with bullet holes from the fierce fighting in 1948, and listened to Mishmar HaEmek member Lydia Aisenberg describe the annual service held on Holocaust Day. The images embedded in the rock are simple yet haunting. The central location of the memorial must carry a deeply symbolic resonance for the kibbutzniks, who have maintained a strong sense of solidarity even amid the changing social and political environment of their nation.
I’ve visited other Holocaust sites and memorials, of course: the Yad Vashem Museum near Jerusalem; the reconstructed death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland; and the walled town of Terezin in the former Czechoslovakia (which was used by the Nazis to dupe the Red Cross about the conditions and functions of their concentration camps). The memorial at Mishmar HaEmek is smaller in scale, narrower in focus, but has a similarly troubling effect. Through its imagery and words, the memorial connects your immediate sense of place—in this case, a kibbutz in the Jizreel Valley, a community that played a key role in the birth of the State of Israel and developing the ideals of the whole kibbutz movement—with a historical event of such profound and unfathomable horror that it feels like the ground is about to open beneath your feet.