Someone asked me, “Does the truth have a temperature? What do you think?”
I didn’t know how to answer that question because I had never associated these two with one another. Because of that, I decided to do some homework. I read the definition of truth in a dictionary, which describes it as something true or something that follows up with a fact or reality—knowing that I reconsidered my thinking.
Truth as a tangible entity could have a temperature. For example, a hot cup of tea feels warm, and the ice inside the palm makes my hand cold.
However, when it comes to the intangible truth, I do not associate it with temperature, even though on some occasions, when I heard or read some news, I felt hot and outraged. I believe such truth resides within the heart of the beholder.
Ten years ago, I visited the Jewish Memorial Museum at Yad Vashem in Tel Aviv. Hollowed out from an underground cavern and submerged in total darkness, this unique memorial serves as a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust.
Memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely in this dark and morbid space. As they shine against the pitch-black expanse, their reflections create the impression of millions of stars. In the background, a voice announces the names of murdered children, their ages, and their countries of origin twenty-four hours a day, seven times a week, nonstop.
The countless faces of beautiful children greeted me as I held onto the rail running alongside a long, winding wall. The stark contrast between the complete darkness and the shining candles triggered my emotions and overwhelmed me. Overtaken by grief, my eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t stop crying, thinking if I had been born fifteen years before World War Two started, most likely, my photograph would replace one of those children’s faces projected on the large screen.
The truth I witnessed inside the museum felt both hot and icy. My body shivered with the impenetrable cold as I watched the callous reality of the Holocaust pierce my bones like a hot iron. Instantaneously, it made the blood in my veins freeze, and my heart boil. The loss of so many innocent lives made me ashamed that I belonged to a human race that committed such atrocity toward other beings. Consumed by darkness and filled with rage, my mind couldn’t comprehend why some people continue to deny the Holocaust’s existence. The truth, indeed, is in the heart of the beholder.
Later, at Yad Vashem, I discovered the Hall of Names, where the victims’ identities were taken from Pages of Testimony. They gathered the names by collecting a particular one-page form submitted by survivors, remaining family members, or friends and acquaintances to commemorate the Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The testimonial pages document the brief life stories, biographical details, and, when available, photographs of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. No cemeteries, headstones, or traces are left to mark the loss of the six million perished lives. The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem is the Jewish People’s memorial to each Jew murdered in the Holocaust – a place where they are commemorated for generations to come.
The architect, Moshe Safdie, designed and built the Children’s Memorial with the generous donation of Abe and Edita Spiegel, whose son Uziel perished in Auschwitz at two and a half years old. The truth, indeed, is in the heart of the beholder.
Forty-five years ago, I left the country of my birth in search of freedom. For twenty-three years, the authoritarian regime brainwashed me into believing the Soviet government’s truth. Social media shoved down the citizens’ throats the propaganda to control the proletariat.
Seventy-four years after the October Revolution occurred in 1917, the truth about socialism and communism revealed itself when the USSR fell apart. On December 26, 1991, the totalitarian regime collapsed under its weight. To sustain a flourishing economy and accommodate its population’s supply and demand proved impossible without free enterprise. Another communist lie uncovered another truth revealed. I cheered upon hearing the news.
At last, the Soviet people would have a chance at a better life. At last, they will get to experience the world of plenty. They will no longer spend most of their time and energy standing in long queues to secure nourishment. But, unlike me, not everyone cheered. Many inside the USSR were distraught by the revelation of the truth about a party they worshiped their entire lives, and for them, the end of December represented the darkest moment in their lives. The truth, indeed, is in the heart of the beholder.
Nowadays, living in the free world, more often than not, I witness the distortion of the truth. Over the years, our society has developed tunnel vision. Very few are interested in a debate. People do not welcome different opinions. They become easily offended. Those who do not follow their agenda are labeled. Politics is a dirty business, but with time, it became a cesspool mired with muck that is impossible to drain. It is one party’s way or the highway. With an attitude like that, day by day, the United States of America becomes increasingly divided. Everyone accepts the custom-made truth to fit their beliefs. The truth, indeed, is in the heart of the beholder.
The years, like seasons, change and move on. The longer I live, the more I focus on the essence of truth. I become more reflective and much wiser as the numbers I’ve lived pile up. With the passage of time, the simple words God presented to humankind on Mount Sinai become my absolute truth. Five thousand eight hundred seventy-three years ago, our creator etched the terms of the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” into the stone tablets given to Moses.
Most religions are built upon the Old Testament. I believe The Ten Commandments are the only acceptable truth. Every decree etched in stone is a testament to how we must live with dignity to be appreciated and respected by others. These words make perfect sense. If everyone lived by them, there would be peace on earth. People do not have to be religious to accept The Ten Commandments as the highest truth, but not all do. The truth, indeed, is in the heart of the beholder.
Etya Vasserman Krichmar was born in 1954 in Kazakhstan, the republic of the former Soviet Union. In 1977, her husband, two-year-old daughter, and she claimed religious discrimination. On Thanksgiving day, inside the American Embassy in Moscow, they received exit visas and left USSR. After a three months stopover in Rome, Italy, they landed at International JFK airport on March 7, 1978, to start a life free of fear. Now a mother to two children and grandmother of three, Etya is retired and lives in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, with her husband and two miniature dachshunds. The local TC Palm newspaper, The Turning Points Anthology, White Rose, The Write Launch magazines, Unleash Creatives and MasticadoresUSA published her work.