Israeli youth comprising a multi-cultural group of Jews and Arab Muslims, Christians and Druze high school students have completed a landmark Holocaust study tour in Poland, organizers said Monday.
“We are 300 kids, from 18 schools from across Israel with nearly half and half Jews and Arabs, and it’s working,” Tamar Gal Sarai, a Jewish educator working with the Amal Group School System of Israeli told AFP.
“We’ve been to (former Nazi German death camps) Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka,” Gal Sarai said of the innovative Holocaust education project dubbed “We Are All One Living, Human Tapestry.”
“We’re trying to create a multi-cultural dialogue, because most of the motivation for hate is fear,” Gal Sarai said.
“We believe that if you bring up the universal values, everyone can get attached to it and learn: Yes, the Holocaust was mostly against Jews, but if the Muslims were there with us in those years, they would have been killed with us too,” she told AFP, pronouncing the trip “an amazing success.”
“We have been very touched here as humans,” said Galal Safadi, an Arab-Israeli educator in charge of non-formal education for Arab youth in Israel at the education ministry.
“It’s not easy to bring Arabs here because of the Palestinian issue,” Safadi admitted.
“But I told my students that if we were living in Europe, (Nazi German dictator Adolf) Hitler would have killed us too because he wanted just the Aryan people to control the world,” Safadi said, adding that there were plans to bring Arab Israeli students to Poland on a regular basis.
“The students want to know about the problems of Jews in history, especially that we are living inside these problems and we suffer too,” said Abed Buerat, a teacher from Umm al-Fahm, a majority Arab Muslim city in northern Israel.
“When they saw these death camps they were all shocked, some were crying,” he said.
“I learned about the Holocaust, but it’s one thing to read a book and something completely different to see Auschwitz. ... I was very shocked,” Mohammed, an 18-year-old Arab Israeli high school student, told AFP.
On the eve of Nazi Germany’s invasion in 1939, Poland had Europe’s largest Jewish community -- around 3.2 million people, or some 10 percent of its population.
Polish Jews made up half of the six million victims of the Holocaust, as well as half of the six million Polish citizens who perished under Nazi Germany during World War II.