March of the Living.
(photo credit: MARCH OF THE LIVING)
Student trips to Poland should be canceled, and the March of the Living should be moved to Jerusalem, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yael Antebi said in a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Her letter was written after legislation passed by Poland that makes it a criminal offense to suggest that the Poland state or nation were complicit in the Holocaust, and a day after Warsaw canceled Bennett’s scheduled visit because he said he would use the opportunity to tell the Polish people the “truth” about their country and the genocide.
In Tuesday’s letter, Antebi questioned the need to send high school student delegations to Poland for the purposes of Holocaust education and urged Bennett to take advantage of the diplomatic crisis to cancel the trips.
Antebi said that for years there has been a debate in Israel over sending student delegations to Poland, and that the new legislation provides a clear impetus to halt these trips.
Each year an estimated 40,000 students from Israel and the Diaspora take part in schools trips to Poland, visiting death camps and memorials as part of Holocaust education programs.
“This is an opportunity for the government and the education minister to stop encouraging and funding delegations [to Poland], and at the same time to formulate a plan that will strengthen the experience of Holocaust studies through seminars in Israel and move the March of the Living to Jerusalem,” she wrote.
Antebi added that it is no secret that school trips to Poland are an expensive and corrupt business, affordable only to wealthier students with costs totaling tens of millions of shekels, which go mainly into Poland’s tourism industry.
“It is preferable that schools organize cheaper trips in Israel, where they can include all students and not just those with means,” she wrote.
“The budget of tens of millions of shekels that the government will save can be passed on to the welfare of Holocaust survivors living in Israel, some of who live under the poverty line, instead of paying hotels and businesses in Poland,” she added.
Antebi also urged Bennett to move the March of the Living, which sees people from all over the world visit death camps in Poland on Holocaust Memorial Day, to Jerusalem.
She suggested the March of the Living in Jerusalem would take place on Holocaust Memorial Day and would include the participation of tens of thousands of students from all over the country in a move that would also strengthen Jerusalem’s tourism industry.
“Move the March of the Living to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and the center of the Jewish people that symbolizes our redemption after the Holocaust,” she wrote.
Antebi said she realized this would be “a challenge” for the government but said it was time to “pave a new way for the commemoration of the Holocaust in a respectable, creative, meaningful manner that includes all shades of Israeli society.”