Day 8: Arriving in Israel

The view from our overnight at Poriah Guest House in Tiberias.

After a very quick flight with South Americans singing the ENTIRE way we finally arrived in the place of our heritage, the place that loves us and keeps us safe, our Homeland. I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement but after being awake for more than 20 hours, some rest was sought after by all of us!

We freshened up and got on the bus, where we met our tour guide Karen. After arriving at Masada Guest house where we ate breakfast we made our way to the cable cars at Masada.

We had a meaningful Rosh Chodesh davening on top of the mountain, and had a very brief tour of the beautiful and ancient mountain. Just like Israel is proof that Hitler did not succeed in wiping out the Jews, so too is Masada proof that the Romans could not defeat the Jews, Masada is ours. We are a strong and powerful nation who are willing to tackle and succeed in any obstacles that are placed in our path.

Next we made our way back to the guest house where we had a quiz about the great revolt! It was very insightful and fun!

We then drove to Tiberias and stopped over for lunch on the way. We arrived at the hotel with the most magnificent view of the Kinneret and had a few hours to relax and get organised.

We ate supper at our hotel and got ready to leave for our disco boat with the Australian Delegation which left from a port in Tiberias and travelled far out into the beautiful Kinneret.

The boat was loads of fun, friendships were created, we danced and sang with the lights of the city of Tiberias glowing behind us – a once in a lifetime experience.

I would say we had a better than best first day in Israel and we wait in anticipation to see what celebrations are in store for us this week. After experiencing the tragedies of the Holocaust in Poland, it is now time to give thanks to Hashem and celebrate the place that has saved us and will ensure the continuity of the Jewish Nation.

עם ישראל חי

-Tali Ogus

Day 7: Tykocin, Lupochowo Forest and Treblinka

The group at Treblinka killing centre on their last day in Poland. From July 1942 through November 1943, the Germans killed between 870,000 and 925,000 Jews there.

 Sunday in my opinion was another one of those heavy days. We were shown the process of how the final solution was put into place as we started off with a visit to one of the Polish shtetls. Jewish life used to be so peaceful until the Germans invaded. The first stage we were shown was something that left the group shellshocked. We headed 3 kms outside the village to a mass grave site, and were told how fathers, mothers and babies were forced to undress, were mercilessly shot and fell into a bloody, reeking pit of corpses.  I said Kaddish again.

Now I know my writing may seem a bit straight forward with no creativity at all, but I cant describe that day with creativity, because there is just too much to process I guess. What I can say is that I really thought about my dad that day as I lit a candle for him at the site of a plain, torturous, revolting monster which we pray to Hashem that it will  never rise again: the gas chamber at Treblinka.

At least the terror is over. Now we have  gone from the darkness to the light as we have landed in the land of milk and honey- Eretz Yisrael!!!

-Dovi Lipshitz

Day 5 & 6: Shabbat in Warsaw

After a five-hour drive, the group take on Warsaw by foot. Above, at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes.

I must say, Rene really picked a stunning hotel for the group to spend the weekend at. I really enjoyed spending shabbos in Warsaw. I think this was the time that the group really bonded – for me personally at least. One of the girls decided to start a game where we went around the table saying our names, family members and personal interests.

The tisch held by the Rabbi that night was really interesting.  Not only did we get to sing together, but we got to learn the background of the songs we sang and heard some interesting stories about the composer.

The Saturday afternoon tour of the  Warsaw Ghetto was really something. For once I actually got a real perspective of Jewish life in Warsaw. Shocking, absolutely shocking the way people used to live.

-Dovi Lipshitz

Day 4: The March of the Living

The South African youth delegation during the official March of the Living walk and ceremony from Auschwitz I to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

image1“If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example.”- Anne Frank

Yesterday we marched in the footsteps of those who perished in the Holocaust. We marched in memory of women, men, young boys, girls, teenagers and babies. Innocent Jewish people who were treated like animals. Walking these 3km really made me think and made me think hard, about how appreciative we must be about everything we have in our lives being it the smallest of things such as a piece of bread. We must love one another and care for each other and respect one another. We must not allow anybody to bring us down, we must continue to march and stand up for ourselves.

image2We will never be able to understand what really happened, we will never know how it felt, but we do know that it happened, and what we do know is that the challenges and changes that all those Jews who perished went through and all the Jews who survived will only help us to find the goals that we know are meant to come true for us. We must be proud of the nation that we are and to keep on marching forward. To never forget what happened to our people. We must carry on being the strong, powerful nation that we are and not allow anyone to tell us any different. We must show them we are still here today and we are unstoppable.

עמ ישראל חי

-Hannah Rudnicki

The March yesterday was definitely my best day so far. Up to now the days have been sad, seeing the terrible destruction, and the inhumane things the Nazis did to Jews. The March was a ray of light and hope. To see Auschwitz, a place of death and destruction full of people draped in Israeli flags sends out such a strong message to the world. We are the Jews and we are here to stay, and you can try to wipe us out but you will never succeed! It was amazing interacting with people from different countries and seeing so many Jews uniting in support of our people who perished in the Holocaust. The March of the Living is an experience that can barely be described in words, you can only truly understand it once you have been there and done it yourself. I am proud to say that out group of 2015 has done the March, united as a group and we have gained more than we could have gained anywhere else.

We will never forget, עם ישראל חי

-Gabriella Lipshitz

Today the group really made me proud.

I have never seen people so excited and so intrigued to meet and converse with South Africans before. I was so proud to be representing South Africa on this March. The “gees”, solidarity and pride we showed while singing before the march was so amazing, we actually managed to convince the Americans to join in. I was gobsmacked.

Today it did not matter whether you were Ashkenazi/Sefardi, religious or secular, what your beliefs were etc.

If there was anyway to show Hitler we are still here, well we sure managed to do so today, but the thing is, and I’m sure some will agree while some will not, that while it is a celebration about the fact that we beat Hitler, it is also a celebration of the fact that we were able to rise back from the ashes and become Am Yisrael, and even more important, a tribute to our fallen brethren. Today was a day I will never forget; walking beside the tracks with our heads held high, hand in hand with our flags raised and mixed thoughts in our head, we marched in memory of our fallen brethren and, in my case, our fallen loved ones. We each had a placard to place in the tracks, on which we could inscribe a message and state who we were marching for. Some put their names and people they marched for, and some put the names of their family that had fallen in the holocaust. I decided to put mine on the tracks closest to the gas chamber, an almost “holy” place for me. On the placard I inscribed “Am Yisrael Chai. Never forget. In memory of Shimshon Mordechai Ben David.”

For today I marched in memory of the 6 million murdered, and at the same time I marched for my late father, who I hope would be so proud of me now, and would want to be here.

I dedicate this March to Shaun Michael Lipshitz, a true mensch, forever in our hearts.

-Dovi Lipshitz

 Photo by Meg Shankman

Day 3: Auschwitz I & Birkenau

The group spent the day at Auschwitz I and Birkenau concentration camps.

11134443_973434139342238_410096425_n“I do not understand how one can process all of this…the amount of hair, shoes and personal belongings we saw in Auschwitz I today makes these events seem absolutely unimaginable. I spoke to Rene and asked her these questions, and she responded that it just takes time. Things seemed to happen at the right place and at the right time: so despite the fact that these Germans were educated people; Hitler was a brilliant orator and somehow managed to convince these people to follow such ideologies.

Sad and Scary.

Birkenau was the place that drained us completely of our emotional stability. We listened to the story of the railway tracks, and Rabbi Ryan gave us another emotional story in the women’s barracks. This was one of the moments where the group really fell flat.

This was when I believed it was time to tell the group my story. I wanted to day kaddish at Birkenau, but someone had already done it by the entrance. Before Rabbi Ryan’s story, I asked him if I could say kaddish by the gas chambers for my late father and the Jews. By the ruins of the gas chamber, after listening to  sheweky’s “shema yisrael” everyone got up to hear me say kaddish, and that’s when I told them my story: The story of how my late father was murdered in front of me and my brother two years ago and I thought we would not get through it, and how a year later my mom got remarried to an amazing mensch of a man, and how everything just seemed to fall into place. The moral of my the story is as follows:  We do not know where to find Hashem, and I do not know if we ever will, nor will se see the bigger picture, but no matter how bad things may seem, and even if your entire life is a mess and nothing good comes out, you need to keep your faith in Hashem, even if you don’t pray or learn torah, just keep your faith, because Hashem is watching over you every step of the way, and that’s what got me to where I am today. Please G-d the same will happen to all of you who find life difficult – just keep your faith.

Tommorow is the March, the day we have all been waiting for. I am excited and scared at the same time. It is really going to be unforgettable.”

-Photo Mia Bermany-Levy; Text Dovi Lipshitz

“Those who have been to Auschwitz can never leave and those who have never been can never enter.

No truer words could describe the feelings that walking through Auschwitz created. It was challenging to believe that such atrocities occurred in such a serene, calm and beautiful place. No amount of learning could have properly prepared me for what I saw in the ‘Death Block’, the horrifying stories I listened to about Mengele’s experimenting and, most of all, seeing the heaps of children’s shoes. The shoes were like a time machine back to my childhood; where I walked in baby high heels with carefree thoughts just like those Jewish children did till their lives were cruelly taken from them.

After a quick break to reflect on all we had just experienced, we went to Birkenau. The beauty of the camp was captivating yet haunting, almost as if I could feel the presence of those who had passed on. What really inspired me was how even though the Nazi’s tried to burn all the evidence, they failed – leaving so much proof of what terrors occurred in the camp. As much as they tried they could not wipe us out of our history. We remain steadfast, strong and ever present.

The emotional load handed to our youthful, yet slightly overwhelmed hands, brought our group together in a way that nothing else could. How ironic that a place that brought so much pain, sorrow and death could connect the very people it tried to destroy.

-Michaela Symons

Day 2: Majdanek


The group at Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin.


“A very hectic day today:

We started the day off with a tour of Majdanek. I took a look at my surroundings and one of the first things I noticed was a crow next to me. The crow – a symbol of darkness and evil. Rabbi Ryan said there would be quite a few crows there, and he personified them as reincarnated SS soldiers. Quite the image. There were some extremely intriguing and emotional moments that occurred throughout this tour. A couple of examples are the singing of Hatikvah next to the gas chamber (just as the Jews did while they were being gassed); the reciting of ‘el bnei rachamim’ in the crematorium; and a short ceremony of poetry and emotional music next to the 7-ton pile of human ash.

Before we entered the camp, we were shown a picture of a bunch of soldiers saluting Hitler, except for one soldier who refused. We discussed what peer pressure could do to an innocent human being. After all these soldiers were not Nazis, they were regular people such as doctors, professors etc and we were left with the question: “who will you be: the one who salutes or the one who does not salute?” The question still haunts me.


We then departed for Krakow.

It was a four hour drive, and to keep us occupied we watched ‘Schindler’s List’, which also left us with a few unanswered questions. We had a lovely tour of Krakow in the evening and even got to see some of our American friends from the other MotL delegations.”

-Photos Mia Bermany-Levy; Text Dovi Lipshitz

Day 1: Arrivals & Lublin

All 39 participants safely arrived in Poland late this afternoon. Two flights and a 3-hour bus ride later, our guide Eli Tur Paz and Rabbi Ryan Goldstein introduce the participants to the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva on a rare night-time visit.

“What a hectic day!

I must say, for the first time I actually hated flying, but I’m glad that we got to Poland safely. Today we all had an introduction, where we introduced ourselves and explained our reasons for going on the March. It’s amazing to see the many different reasons that people came on this programme: to learn, for self-reflection, to meet other people, and the list goes on.

We ended off our long day with a chilled shiur in the Lublin Yeshiva, where Eli (our guide) and Rabbi Ryan told us about the Shul, the large Jewish community pre-WWII and a small shiur on the evil eye. I was quite amazed.

This is just the beginning of our amazing journey and I believe it is one where every moment must be lived and loved.”

-Dovi Lipshitz