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Israeli youth trips to Poland to resume this summer

The annual trips were canceled in November due to the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and concern over rising antisemitism in Europe.

The annual March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in Poland, April 28, 2022. Photo by Aloni Mor/MOTL.
The annual March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in Poland, April 28, 2022. Photo by Aloni Mor/MOTL.

Israeli high school students will resume organized visits to Nazi concentration camps in Poland this summer, Israel’s Education Ministry announced on Tuesday.

The annual educational trips, which were canceled in November due to the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and concern over rising antisemitism in Europe, were given the go-ahead after a review of security and logistical factors and after a “pedagogical process was completed examining and adjusting the goals and contents of the trips” in light of current events, the ministry said.

“The trip to Poland allows the students to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, to be exposed to the atrocities that took place there and to prove victory and rebirth over the attempt to destroy the Jewish people,” Education Minister Yoav Kisch said in a statement announcing the decision. “Learning about the Jewish people, its history and the importance of the establishment of the State of Israel is of the utmost importance” especially after the events of Oct. 7. 

The Hamas massacre, in which 1,200 people, mainly civilians, were killed, thousands more were wounded and 253 others were abducted to the Gaza Strip triggering a war which has been ongoing for five months, set off an unprecedented surge in antisemitism around the globe, including in Europe.

Despite the approval, the ministry also suggested that parents take out travel insurance on the tickets so that a refund will be possible if they need to be canceled at the eleventh hour.

The trips, long considered a rite of passage for Israeli youth, are funded by parents, school fundraisers or other donations. About 35,000 Israeli youths took part in the annual visits in years past.

Last year, Israel and Poland reached an agreement on the resumption of youth trips after a three-year halt following a diplomatic dispute between the two countries which sent relations between the erstwhile allies plummeting to all-time lows. The debate initially centered around Polish laws that were seen as whitewashing the deeds of some Poles during the Holocaust, and that prevented Holocaust survivors or the families of those who died in the Shoah from claiming restitution of seized property.

At the time, Israel said that Poland’s nationalistic government was also trying to control the curriculum of the trips. The controversy was then followed by the Covid pandemic, during which travel was heavily restricted in any case. The Polish government which had wanted a say in the content of the trips has since been voted out of office as well.

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