Israel Nixes Youth Holocaust Ed Missions to Poland Over Security Dispute

The Education Ministry instructed schools to cancel all upcoming summer trips, for which 7,000 Israeli pupils had already registered

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Visitors wrapped in Israeli flags at Auschwitz, 2016
Visitors wrapped in Israeli flags at Auschwitz, 2016.Credit: Alik Keplicz / AP

The Education Ministry has announced that it is cancelling youth missions to Poland that were scheduled to take place in July and August, following a dispute with the Polish government over security.

Haaretz has learned that the dispute related to the carrying of weapons by Israeli security personnel on Polish soil. The ministry instructed schools to cancel all summer trips, for which 7,000 pupils had already registered.

The ministry’s director-general Dalit Stauber said on Tuesday that along with the dispute over security, there are also some controversial issues regarding the content of these trips. “For several years, Poland has been trying to write the history of the Holocaust in a slightly different manner. Israel is negotiating with Poland over this issue, in the meantime precluding these trips from continuing,” said Stauber in an interview she gave to Kan Radio’s Reshet Bet. She added that the Foreign Ministry and other relevant agencies were trying to resolve the matter.

Youth missions to Poland resumed last March after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, with around one thousand pupils visiting in the spring. The number of pupils participating in these trips has grown over the years, reaching 40,000 a year before the pandemic began. The increase was partly enabled by distribution of stipends by the Ministry of Education, as well as lower trip costs – about 5,00 shekels (approximately $1,440) per student in recent years.

Two years ago, the Education Ministry launched an alternative program for high school students who did not go on these trips due to the pandemic. This included a trip lasting several days to Holocaust and national rebirth commemoration sites in Israel, including a camp commemorating illegal immigrants during the British Mandate, located in Atlit, and kibbutzim built by Holocaust survivors.

The program is still defined as a pilot project, and only a few pupils have participated in it so far. However, the financing of this new program is not anchored in the ministry’s budget, and every budget cut puts it at risk.

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