TEL AVIV – An Israeli high school principal caused controversy by canceling his school’s annual trip to former Nazi death camps in Poland because they were becoming “social occasions rather than learning experiences,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
“I didn’t make the decision on my own,” Dr. Ze’ev Dagani, principal of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, told Israel’s Army Radio. “I did it with the support of the administrators and the parents. The sense is that the trip has become prohibitively expensive in recent years for most people. It’s not easy to spare NIS 5,000 for a six-day trip.
“The important thing is to remember that there was a Holocaust, that we teach the students about the Holocaust, and that we make sure it doesn’t happen again – not here and not anywhere else.”
The trips, in which students learn about the Holocaust and visit the extermination camps used to murder European Jews, are considered important to reinforcing the tenets of Zionism, especially the refusal to be “led like lambs to the slaughter.”
“We need to really think if it’s necessary to fly there,” Dagani said. “There are many youths who aren’t emotionally built to really grasp the extent of the horror. It’s too much for them, and I think it’s too early to send 16- and 17-year-olds on trips to Poland. It’s a trip that requires emotional and intellectual maturity.”
The trips to Poland have stirred public anger because of tour operator “cartels” that scam youth delegations with fixed prices in order to prevent competition.
In January, police and Anti-Trust Authority officers arrested nine suspects and seized bank accounts linked to the scam.
The suspects, who have been accused of fraud, money-laundering, and violating anti-trust laws, included the CEOs and owners of several tourism companies.
In February, the Knesset Education, Sports, and Culture Committee urged schools to cancel annual trips to Poland, citing the problem of many students who could not afford to go.
MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas), the committee chairman, demanded that the Education Ministry offer subsidies for students in need.
“Until such time, the committee is calling to suspend all the delegations and to take every measure to ensure that no student is left behind, whether it be a trip to Poland or any other educational activity,” Margi said.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), who initiated the discussion, said the trips to Poland provide students with educational and moral values and enrich their learning experience.
“But it cannot be that we will continue to agree that the delegations to Poland will only be for the rich,” Shmuli said.
“The fact that the right to touch the stones of Auschwitz are denied to a child because his parents do not have enough money is something that does not stop bothering me,” he said.