State to subsidize school trips to death camps in Poland

July 26, 2011 03:19

Gov' to begin spending NIS 50 million a year in effort to make trips available to a broader cross-section of the population, Education Ministry says.

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March of the Living at Auschwitz

March of the Living at Auschwitz 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Peter Andrews)

The government will begin spending NIS 50 million a year to subsidize school trips to Poland in an effort to make the trips available to a broader cross-section of the population, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

The ministry said it expects the supplements, which will begin in 2012, will significantly increase the number of students who can participate in the trip.

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Of the NIS 50 million in supplements, NIS 35 million will come from the Education Ministry and the rest will come from the Union of Local Authorities, the ministry said.

The annual “March of the Living” brings together thousands of high school students from Israel and across the Diaspora to Poland, where they visit sites from the Nazi Holocaust and take part in a march from Auschwitz I to Birkenau, the death camp of Auschwitz II, on Holocaust Memorial Day. Participation in the trip costs around NIS 5,400 and has earned the trip the reputation of being only for students from well-off families.

The amount of financial assistance students receive from the government will depend solely on their family’s economic standing, with students from the lowest socioeconomic levels receiving a supplement of 70 percent of the cost of the trip, those on the next two levels receiving between 30-45% and those on the highest socioeconomic standing receiving no supplement unless approved by a special committee.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said Monday that the trips to Poland are of great national and social importance, and “contribute to Jewish identity and our feeling of obligation to remember the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel, which is the state of the Jewish people.”

Sa’ar added that the supplements represent “an important social step, which will cancel an unjust obstacle which keeps students from taking part based on their socioeconomic standing at home.”

In January, the ministry announced plans to spend NIS 15 million over the next school year to raise the number of students taking school trips to Jerusalem. Sa’ar has also ordered his ministry to raise the number of students taking part in “Israeli journey,” a six-day school field trip the ministry devotes to the enrichment of Jewish and Zionist identity.

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