Poland Trips Boost Israeli Students’ Opinions of the IDF, Study Finds

The study compares attitudes of students who did not go on a trip with those who did, comparing between the groups and the effect the trip has on attitudes towards the IDF.

A recent Education Ministry study determined that organized school trips to Poland cause participants to have a more positive opinion of the Israel Defense Forces.

The study compared the attitudes of students who did not go on the trips with those who did, and also compared attitudes before and after the trip.

Watch towers and barbed wire fence of the former Nazi death camp Majdanek, outside Lublin, Poland.

Respondents were shown a number of statements and asked to assign a grade to the extent with which they agreed with each. When asked how much the Poland trip helped "to better understand the existence of the IDF," 83 percent of trip participants assigned a "high grade" to the statement, compared to 74 percent prior to the trip. In schools that did not participate in the heritage trips to Poland, which began 23 years ago, just 71 percent of respondents gave the statement a "high grade."

"When I go on the trip I think about how important the nation, pride in the people and the state are, I look at the flag differently," one respondent explained, adding: "The army was less important to me before I saw the soldiers at Majdanek. Now I have more motivation," he said.

The percentage of respondents studying at state religious schools who said that the trip aided in understanding the universal implication of the Holocaust was lower than their counterparts in non-religious state schools, at 64 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

The gap between the two groups was even larger regarding their support for the idea of "seeing every person as a citizen of the world, without regard to national identification," after returning from Poland, at 42 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

Among respondents in state religious schools questioned after their return from Poland, 46 percent reported having a negative attitude toward the Polish people, 50 percent said their attitude was neutral and only 4 percent reported a positive attitude. For their counterparts in the non-religious school system, the respective figures were 9 percent, 69 percent and 23 percent.

The latter number, representing the number who reported a positive attitude to the Polish people, was just 13 percent prior to the Poland journey.

Of respondents who elected not to participate in their school's trip to Poland, 61 percent cited the high cost as the reason. The per-student cost borne by participants is around NIS 5,500 to NIS 6,000.