Between the Chamber of the Holocaust and Yad Vashem: Martyrs’ Ashes as a Focus of Sanctity
The article discusses burial of martyrs’ ashes and other remains of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust at the Chamber of the Holocaust on Mount Zion and at Yad Vashem. A cargo of ashes, which arrived from Austria in 1949, served as the basis for creation of the Chamber of the Holocaust. The representatives of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Chief Rabbinate then insisted that all the ashes arriving in Israel would be buried henceforth on Mount Zion. With the establishment of Yad Vashem as the national Remembrance Authority and consolidation of the ideas of commemoration there, a conflict developed between the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Chief Rabbis on the one hand and Yad Vashem on the other regarding the interment of the ashes. The representatives of the official state institution wished to bury a cargo of ashes at the center of Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembrance) in a memorial shrine, but this was firmly opposed by the religious establishment. The article analyzes the differences between these two sites: Yad Vashem was developed as a secular national site emphasizing state commemoration of the Holocaust that characterized this period; conversely, for the Chamber of the Holocaust, which drew its force from its proximity to the Old City and King David’s tomb, the emphasis was seen as a memorial and remembrance site for the traditional and religious public that sought religious forms of remembrance.