Israel doesn't want to change formula of Israeli youth trips to Poland

Darek Delmanowicz/PAP

Israel has cancelled Holocaust-education trips this summer, claiming the Polish government is trying to control the Holocaust-studies curriculum taught to Israeli children.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that, "the current formula of organised trips of Israeli youth to Poland requires changes due to systematic problems leading to the strengthening of false stereotypes, which negatively impacts Polish-Israeli relations."

According to Jablonski, the current formula gives Israeli negative feelings towards Poland and the Polish people, in which they see the country only through the prism of Nazi German concentration camps, while not getting acquainted with the history of over 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish relations.

He also added that the presence of armed Israeli guards, accompanying Israeli youth during their visit to Poland, creates the impression in young Israelis that it is a dangerous country.

The Times of Israel wrote on Wednesday that the Polish government had refused to allow armed Israeli agents to provide security for the trips.

In response, Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, told reporters on Wednesday that, despite the fact that the decision (to halt visits to Poland - PAP) had been taken by the education minister, it had diplomatic consequences.

"They wanted to dictate what was allowed and what wasn't allowed to be taught to Israeli children who go to Poland and that we cannot agree with," he said, adding that Poland had barred Israeli delegations from learning about the role of Polish citizens in collaborating with Nazis during the Holocaust.

But Lapid also said that relations between Israel and Poland had improved as the two countries had cooperated on the border with Ukraine while taking Jews out of the country.

Lapid, whose father survived the Holocaust, expressed his gratitude to Poland for saving Jewish refugees from Ukraine.

Young Israelis traditionally travel to Poland in the summer to tour former Nazi German concentration camps in order to learn about the Holocaust and pay homage to the victims. The trips have long been considered a milestone in Israeli education and, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, some 40,000 Israeli students participated each year. According to the Israeli Education Ministry, about 7,000 were registered to go to Poland this summer.