Grapevine: Teaching Holocaust history

Poland is currently gearing up for a mega commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion that took place on September 1, 1939.

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August 4, 2019 13:26
WOJCIECH KOLARSKI, flanked by Julia Mackiewicz-Saban (left) and Lea Pitterman-Ganor, and teachers of

WOJCIECH KOLARSKI, flanked by Julia Mackiewicz-Saban (left) and Lea Pitterman-Ganor, and teachers of Holocaust history during a visit to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. (photo credit: POLISH INSTITUTE TEL AVIV)

There appears to be consensus among educators preparing Holocaust history curricula that teachers of Holocaust history cannot teach it properly unless they visit the areas and the sites about which they are teaching. At the joint initiative of the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv and the Mashmaut Center located in Kiryat Motzkin, a group of female teachers who completed a two-year course in Holocaust studies went to Poland, to meet with their Polish counterparts and engage in in-depth dialogue on their common history, while simultaneously studying differences in approach to the subject by Polish and Israeli teachers. The overall program not only gives Israeli teachers text book familiarity with Holocaust history, but also enables them to meet survivors, key figures in Holocaust education, Polish counterparts, and Polish dignitaries in addition to visiting museums and other sites that depict Jewish life in Poland before, after and during the Second World War. Such meetings and visits give the teachers additional insights. The group that recently visited Poland was led by Lea Pitterman-Ganor, the director of the Mashmaut Center, and Julia Mackiewicz-Saban from the Polish Institute. As a special bonus, the group also visited the Presidential Palace where Wojciech Kolarski, Secretary of State of the Polish Chancellery, showed them around. Poland is currently gearing up for a mega commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the German invasion that took place on September 1, 1939.

■ EVERY SUMMER, the Keshet Eilon music center at Kibbutz Eilon hosts an international violin seminar. Gifted young violinists come from all over the world to study for three weeks with top ranking violin teachers. Among the students who are demonstrating their musical prowess this summer is Colombian violinist Daniel Cifuentes, who is greatly admired in his native Colombia. Taking advantage of his presence in Israel, the Colombian Embassy will next week host a special concert at the Colombian Residence in Kfar Shmaryahu where Cifuentes will be accompanied by pianist Edward Liddall. The program will include classical Colombian compositions as well as pieces from the violinist’s Israeli repertoire.

■ BLUE AND White leader Benny Gantz should bear in mind the old adage that pride goes before a fall. In interviews that he is giving in advance of the elections, he tries to avoid saying anything specifically negative about his chief rival Benjamin Netanyahu, but he is downplaying Netanyahu’s diplomatic achievements by saying that none of them had anything to do with Netanyahu’s persuasive abilities, but with the self-interests of politicians from other countries. This includes US President Donald Trump’s transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the visits by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israel. Gantz believes that because of foreign self-interests, he can bring about similar diplomatic triumphs. Even people who absolutely detest Netanyahu admit that he’s a master diplomat, and has done more for Israel on the diplomatic front than all of his predecessors put together. Gantz apparently thinks otherwise. Man’s worst enemy is his ego.

■ AN HONORARY Consul is sometimes of greater value than a professional diplomat. The Honorary Consul is usually a successful business person, well connected with the local and national chambers of commerce and with other business organizations and institutions, and helps to pave the way for improvements in bilateral trade, and occasionally for cultural exchanges. The Honorary Consul is a citizen of the embassy’s host country and also has connections with government ministries. Not all Honorary Consuls get the recognition they deserve. The UK is actually very good about giving recognition to Honorary Consuls and often awards them with a medal signifying that they have been selected for an OBE. France is also good, and awards the Legion of Honor in different categories. Actually, most countries follow a similar pattern, but their awards are not as widely known as those of the UK and France. The Lithuanian award – at least as far as Honorary Consuls are concerned – is known as the Diplomatic Star. At a festive ceremony at the Lithuanian Embassy this week, it was awarded by Lithuanian Ambassador Edminus Bagdonas to Amos Eran, the Honorary Consul of Lithuania in Israel in recognition of his considerable contribution to the enhancement of relations between Israel and Lithuania. The decoration as such is relatively new and was first awarded in 2010. The recipient at that time was Chen Apter, who had been an Israel ambassador to Lithuania and other Baltic states. Apter had battled cancer for years, and finally succumbed in 2012. He was the first foreign diplomat to be accorded an award by Lithuania.

Unlike many other Honorary Consuls, Eran actually does have a diplomatic background. For seven years, he served as an attaché at the Israel Embassy in Washington and liaised with Congress on matters of security, economics and politics. In other capacities he also maintained regular contact with King Hussein of Jordan, and participated in secret meetings between the king and members of Israel’s leadership. In addition, he served as a liaison officer in Operation Entebbe. His CV includes a stint as director-general of the prime minister’s office, and he also served as a political adviser to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

After retiring from the Civil Service, he held a series of positions, including director-general of Mivtachim, one of Israel’s largest finance and insurance groups, President of the University of Haifa, and director at Bank Hapoalim, Bank Mizrahi Tefahot and Delek. He currently serves as a director of Clal Insurance and is chairman of the International Committee for the Preservation of Historic Sites.

■ SOME PEOPLE might have wondered why former Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is now a member of Parliament, when making his maiden speech last week, was accompanied to Canberra by Chabad Rabbi Dovid Slavin and his wife, Laya, who run what is known in Sydney – where Sharma and his family live – as Our Big Kitchen. The Slavins founded and operate the industrial kitchen, which serves hundreds of meals to the poor, free of charge. The building was constructed voluntarily by Jews, Greeks and Italians, and much of the kosher cooking is done by volunteers, some of whom learn as they go along. Sharma, who has also volunteered in the kitchen, learned to make challah. He also helped to raise considerable funds so that OBK, which has been featured several times in the non-Jewish media, could continue with its good work. In the process, he became very friendly with the Slavins, who thought it was only right to make the trip to Canberra with him, as he sets out on his parliamentary career. OBK opened its doors 18 years ago, and has been going strong ever since. It not only feeds the hungry and the homeless of all faiths, but helps to create new friendships and to break down barriers of prejudice.

■ INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED illusionist Uri Geller accompanied a British parliamentary delegation from the Foreign Affairs Committee to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon to witness one of the country’s most humanitarian projects – Save a Child’s Heart. Regardless of race, creed or nationality, children with heart defects are brought from all over the world, usually accompanied by their mothers, to undergo surgery and rehabilitation before returning in good health to their home countries, including countries that are hostile to Israel. Motherly love is stronger than anti-Israel propaganda, and when a mother sees an opportunity for her sick child to be given a new lease on life, she grabs it with both hands. Initially, some of the mothers are frightened and suspicious, but the milk of human kindness that they encounter during their stay in Israel gives them a different perspective.

While at the hospital, Geller demonstrated the art for which he has achieved world fame, which is bending spoons with the power of his mind. The parliamentarians also had a preview of the new Uri Geller Museum in old Jaffa, which will be officially opened to the public at the end of this year. Among the many exhibits at the museum is the largest bent spoon in the world, plus many spoons that belonged to famous people.

Geller decided to part with one of them – a spoon that had belonged to Israel’s only woman prime minister, Golda Meir. He asked the parliamentarians to take it as a gift to recently elected British prime minister Boris Johnson. Even if he can’t use it to stir his tea, given that Johnson is unashamedly pro-Zionist, Golda’s spoon may stir Johnson’s emotions.

■ AFTER 11 years as the representative in Israel of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Yigal Sela, has passed the baton to Moriah Ben David, a former Bnei Akiva emissary to Australia who was headquartered in Melbourne. Sela succeeded the late and much-loved Frank Stein, who spared no effort in helping new immigrants from Australia to adjust to their new lives in Israel, and remained in frequent contact with them long after a successful absorption process. During his 11 years as director of the ZFA’s Israel office, Sela made many new friends both in Israel and in Australia, where he occasionally had to go for briefings and major ZFA events. In a farewell note, Sela, who previously worked with other Jewish communities around the globe, described the Australian Jewish community as “the most passionate Israel-connected Zionist community there is.”

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