Citing security concerns, ministry halts schools’ Holocaust education trips to Poland

Organized visits to concentration camps, viewed as a rite-of passage for Israeli teens, had recently been renewed after a three-year pause

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: Israeli high school students on school trips to Poland, where they learn about the Holocaust. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli high school students on school trips to Poland, where they learn about the Holocaust. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

The once-annual excursion of Israeli high-school students to concentration camps in Poland to learn about the Holocaust has been canceled this year, the Education Ministry has announced. Around 24,000 students were to have attended in the coming months in over 200 separate delegations.

“The decision to cancel the trips was made against the backdrop of the security situation and in light of the number of antisemitic incidents around the world,” the ministry said in a statement Friday.

The October 7 surprise assault on southern Israel by Hamas terrorists resulted in some 1,200 Israelis killed, often gruesomely. Most of the dead were civilians. Over 240 people, including young children and the elderly, were taken captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The resulting Israeli bombing campaign and ground assault in Gaza, which has killed over 11,000 according to unverified figures provided by the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry, has set off a storm of unprecedent pro-Palestinian rallies in Europe and North America which are often seen as having blatant antisemitic elements.

A huge surge in antisemitic incidents has also been reported in Europe since October 7. Last week German police said they had recorded over 2,000 distinct incidents since the conflict began, and in London, two weeks into the war, police reported a 1,353% increase in such incidents.

Earlier this year, Israel and Poland reached a controversial agreement to resume the trips after a three-year absence, caused by disputes between the two countries over curriculum. The hard-right Polish government — which recently lost the elections — had increasingly demanded a say over the content of the trips, as it cracked down on free speech regarding Polish peoples’ roles in the Holocaust.

The Poland trips are meant to be a learning experience about the Holocaust, the subsequent necessity of the Jewish state, and the values of volunteerism and social cohesion. The ministry said it was looking into alternative avenues to explore these issues during the school year.

The trips are paid for by individual parents, school fundraisers or other donations. Canceling the trips now, several months before they were to have occurred and before they were paid for, mitigates the problems of giving refunds and undoing reservations, the ministry said.

Another round of Poland trips, scheduled for the summer, has not been canceled.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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