Israeli Youth Pilgrimages to Poland. Rationale and Polemics

Main Article Content

Dan Soen
Nitza Davidovich


Israeli Youth Pilgrimages to Poland: Rationale and Polemics


The article, which was written based on material collected as part of a project evaluating the pilgrimage trips to Poland by Israeli adolescents as part of the Holocaust curriculum, attempted to provide the reader with the background for these trips. In this context, the authors discussed the evolving national agenda in Israel, and the transition from experiencing independence to experiencing the Holocaust. It was explained that this process began with the Eichmann trial in 1961, but became far more intense after the political upheaval in 1977, when the Labor Party, which had been in power since the 1920s, lost the election. The authors of the article stressed that in the wake of the profound social changes that took place in Israeli society, the memory of the Holocaust gained new significance among the country’s national priorities. While a policy known as “the great silence” regarding the Holocaust prevailed among the first generation after statehood, the Holocaust has now become a factor that shaped the national ethos. In 1979, for the first time, the Ministry of Education commissioned two curricula dealing exclusively with the Holocaust. It was this new attitude to the sources of Israeli identity that led to the commencement of trips to Poland by adolescents in the 1980s. Since the trips began, in 1988, over 300,000 adolescents have traveled to Poland. These journeys have become a sort of rite de passage for the relevant age group (high school juniors and seniors). They can be compared to backpacking by young adults who travel abroad to “clear their heads” after completing their army service, on trips lasting anywhere from a few months to two years. The authors noted that nevertheless, only 25-30% of Israeli adolescents actually take part in these journeys. Inter alia, the article reviewed the evolving goals of the trips defined by the MOE, in accordance with the worldview of the minister in office, and noted that, in accordance with the spirit of the times, there were sometimes differences in the main nuances along the particularism-universality axis. The article further stated that apart from the terms in office of ministers Rubinstein and Aloni, the assimilation of the humanistic, moral, universal and anti-totalitarian lessons of the Holocaust during the trips was minor. The article includes a fairly extensive discussion of the dispute on this issue in Israeli discourse. The article noted that the Holocaust and its lessons can be examined from three different perspectives: The first perspective focuses on presenting the universal significance of the Holocaust and perceiving it as parallel to other cases of genocide (such as the murder of the Armenians by the Turks, the genocide in Rwanda and so on). The second perspective focuses on presenting the national significance of the Holocaust as a unique and unparalleled case of the Jewish People. The perception held by this approach is actually “the whole world is against us.” The third perspective is a synthesis of these two approaches. In this article, the authors noted that the longstanding debate in Israeli society over the various methods for instilling the Holocaust and the journeys to Poland by adolescents expresses these three perspectives. The speakers and writers interviewed in the field research each represent one of these perspectives. The article contains many direct quotations from authors, teachers, academics and others, which support the points made by the authors.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Jak cytować
Soen, D., & Davidovich, N. (2011). Israeli Youth Pilgrimages to Poland. Rationale and Polemics. Images. The International Journal of European Film, Performing Arts and Audiovisual Communication, 9(17-18), 5-27.
Temat numeru


  1. Almog, A. Bidding Srulik farewell: Changes of values in the Israeli elite. Haifa: Haifa University and Zemora Bitan, 2004.
  2. Almog, A. The Sabra – a profile. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, Ofakim, 1997.
  3. Atzili, A. “A journey to hone Zionist, Jewish, and party values.” Bishvil Hazikaron, 7, 7-8, 1995.
  4. Auron, Y. Ihe pain of knowing: Issues in Holocaust and genocide instruction. Tel Aviv: The Open University, 2003.
  5. Auron, Y. “Who’s afraid to talk about genocide?” Eds. H. Hertzog and K. Lahad (eds.). Knowing and remaining silent: Mechanisms of silencing and represion in Israeli society. Jerusalem: Van Leer Institute and Sifriyat Hapoalim, 2006.
  6. Auron, Y. Israeli identities: Jews and Arabs in the mirror and the other. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2010.
  7. Bar-On, D., and Sela, A. Psycho-social effects of the Holocaust on the second and third generations. Beer Sheva: Department of Behavioral Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, 1991.
  8. Bar-On, D. Between fear and hope. Tel Aviv: Ghetto Fighters House and Kibbutz Hameuhad, 1994.
  9. Cohen, A. Study on Holocaust instructions in high schools in Israel – Summary of the main findings. Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University, School of Education and the Claims Committee, 2009.
  10. Davidovitch, N., Lustig, R., Lieberman, G., Milgram, N., and Soen, D. Assessment of the youth pilmigrages to Poland: An examination of the moral, academic, and emotional contribution. Interim Report. Ari’el: Ari’el University Center, 2010.
  11. Eisenstadt, S. N. Israeli society in tranformation. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1989.
  12. Elkana, Y. “In praise of silence.” Ha’aretz, 2.3, 13, 1988.
  13. Elner, A. “Poland – not the place for youngsters”, Ynet January 31, Opinions, 2010.
  14. Feldman, J. “Following the Israeli Holocaust survivor: Israeli youth delegations to Poland, and national identity”. Teoria vebikoret, 19, 2001. 167-190.
  15. Fullerm J. P. C. Ihe Second World War. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense,
  16. Ma’arachot, 1987.
  17. Gerlach, K. The Wannsee Committee, the destiny of German Jews, and Hitler’s principled decision to destory all the European Jews. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2001.
  18. Gorny, Y. Between Auschwitz and Jerusalem. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1980.
  19. Graetz, Z. History of the Jews (Vol. D). Tel Aviv: Yizrael, 1954.
  20. Graetz, N. Captive in its dream. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, Ofakim, 1995.
  21. Gross, T. Influence of the pilgrimage to Poland under the auspices of the Ministry of Education on the processing of the Holocaust. Master’s thesis, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, 2000.
  22. Grossman, H. “1he March of the Living.” Kesher Ayin, 147, 2005. 12-14. Guttman, Y. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Vol. A), Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1990.
  23. Handel, M. The 1096 Massacre. Jerusalem: Kiryat Hasefer, 1950.
  24. Hasson, N. “The International Holocaust Day: Antisemitism is increasing but so it’s Holocaust remembrance.” Haaretz, January 26, 2010.
  25. Hazan, H. “1hree faces of the Holocaust.” Panim, 11, 1999. 66-75.
  26. Herzl, B. Z. History. Translated by R. Binyamin and A. Barash. Tel Aviv: Mitzpeh, 1929.
  27. Iram, Y., and Shechter, A. “Fifity years of moral education – from an emerging society to a changing society. A review of development.” Eds. Y. Iram. S. Shkolnikov, Y. Cohen, and A. Shechter Crossroads: Values and educa¬tion in Israeli society. Jerusalem: Department of Publications, Ministry of Education, 2001.
  28. Kashti, A. “A poll of high school students: Films on the Holocaust are more significant than the journeys to Poland.” Haaretz, January 26, 2010.
  29. Keren, J. Ihe impact of public opinion on one hand and Holocaust research on the other, on Holocaust public highschool instruction methods and information education in Israel between 1948 and 1981. Doctorate thesis. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1985.
  30. Keren, N. “Youngsters’ journeys to Poland – second thoughts.” Skira Hodsheet, 7, 1992. 46-47.
  31. Kessen, L., and Shachar, A. “The trip that became a journey.” Panim, 17, 2003. 95-107.
  32. Knoch, H. “Jhe search for authenticity: Memory, emotions, and testimony in contemporary Germany.” Tabor, 1, 2008. 10-23.
  33. Kovner, A. Prom generation to generation. A pool oj documents jrom the Holocaust period. Seminar Hakibbutzim, 1988. . Accessed: 1/1/10/. Lapid, Y. “Cry for help.” Ynet Activism, January 29, 2010.
  34. Lev, M. Impact of youngsters’ journey to Poland on their cognitive and emotion¬al attitudes toward the Holocaust. Master’s thesis. Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University, 1998.
  35. Lissak, M., and Horowitz, D. “1he ideological dimenions in the Jewish settle-ment’s political system.” Medina, Mimmshal, and Yahasim
  36. Beinleumi’im, 7, 1975. 28-61.
  37. Ministry of Education and Culture. Criteria and guidelines jor approving youth delegations. Minister of Education Circular, 1988.
  38. Offir, A. “On feelings that cannot be expressed in words, and lessons that should not be doubted.” Bishvil Hazikraon, 7, 1995. 11-15.
  39. Rahat, R. (1983). Immigration and absorption. In Social patterns in Israel: Trends of cohesion and separation. Tel Aviv: Ihe Open University, 1983.
  40. Refaeli, W. Assessment of the Masa Masuah Litkuma program. Nir Galim: Beit Ha’edut, 2010.
  41. Rett, A. “Amalek 1945–2010.” Ynet, January 28, 2010.
  42. Romy, S., and Lev, M. “Knowledge, emotions, and attitudes of Israeli
  43. youngsters to the Holocaust.” Megamot, 42, 2002. 219-239.
  44. Ronen, A. “Recognizing another’s pain: Teaching racism and the Holocaust to Arabs and Jews.” Ed. A. Nahtomi. Multi-culturalism in a test in Israeli society. Jerusalem: Magnes, 2003.
  45. Rose, N. Chaim Weizmann. Jerusalem: Domino, 1990.
  46. Rowner, A. “1he concealed goals of the journey to Poland.” Ynet, August 25, Opinions, 2010.
  47. Rubinstein, A. Being a free nation. Tel Aviv: Shoken, 1977.
  48. Segev, T. The seventh million. Jerusalem: Keter, 1992.
  49. Segev. T. “The Eichman trial: Wanted – teachers with integrity.” Haaretz, February 4, 2010.
  50. Shachar, A., and Katan, L. “1he trip that did not become a journey.” Panim, 16, 2001. online: . Accessed: 8/4/05.
  51. Shalem, M. “In defense of the youth journeys to Poland.” Hed Hahinuch, February, 2008. 84-87.
  52. Soen, D. A land of rage and fury: Cleaveages and identity in Israel. Kiryat Bialik: Ah, 2003.
  53. Stauber, R. Ihe lesson for the generation of Holocaust and heroism in public thinking in the 1950s. Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak ben Tzvi, 2000.
  54. Vergun, Y. Student delegations to Poland. Jerusalem. Knesset Research and Information Center, 2008.
  55. Weiss, A. “Journey to Poland – illuminations and comments.” Igeret Lihinuch, 85, 1989. 49-50.
  56. Wetzler, A. (1996). “Fifty years later: Varying motifs in research and theory con-cerning the Holocaust survivors from a psychological perspective.” Gerontologia, 72-73, 1996. 4-14.
  57. Witztum, A., and Melkinson, R. “Grief and commemoration: The two-sided face of the national myth.” Eds, R. Melkinson, S. Rubin, and A.
  58. Witztum. Loss and bereavement in Israeli society. Jerusalem: Kaneh and the Ministry of Defense, 1993. 231-256.
  59. Yablonka, H. “Holocaust survivors in Israel – Initial summaries.” Bishvil Hazikaron, 41, 1998. 24-31. 27.
  60. Yablonka, H. “1he Eichman trial and Israel, 40 years later.” Bishvil Hazikaron, 41, 2001. 24-31.
  61. Zuckerman, M. Holocaust in the sealed room. Tel Aviv: privately published, 1993.
  62. Ascherson, N. The struggles for Poland. New York: Random House, 1987. Auron, Y. Katznell, J. and Silberklang, D. (1994). “1he Holocaust and the Israeli Teacher.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 8, 1994. 225-257.
  63. Ben-Amos, A., and Bet-El. L. “Holocaust Day and Memorial Day in Israeli schools: Ceremonies, education and history.” Israel Studies, 4, 1999. p. 258-284.
  64. Davies, N. God’s playground: A history of Poland. Vol. 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
  65. Degnen, C. “Relationality, place, and absence: A three-dimensional perspective on social memory.” Ihe Sociological Review, 53, 2005. 729-744.
  66. Ezrachi, S. D. “Revisiting the past: Ihe changing legacy of the Holocaust in Hebrew literature.” Salmagundi, 68-69, 1985-86. 245-276.
  67. Feldman, J. Between the death camps and the flag: Youth voyages to Poland and the performance of the Israeli National identity. New York: Berghahn Books, 2008.
  68. Fentress, J. and Wickham, C. Social memory. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.
  69. Heilman, S. A walker in Jerusalem. New York: Summit Books, 1986.
  70. Hirsch, E. “Introduction, landscape: Between place and space.” Eds. E.
  71. Hirsch and M. O’Hanlon. The anthropology of landscape: Perspectives on place and space. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  72. Ingold, T. “The temporality of the landscape.” World Archaeology, 25, 1993. 152-174.
  73. Jarman, N. “Commemorating 1916, celebrating difference: Parading and paint¬ing in Belfast.” Eds. A. Forty and S. Kuchler. Ihe art of forgetting. Oxford: Berg, 2001.
  74. Lazar, A., Chaitin, J., Gross, T., and Bar-On., D. “Jewish Israeli Teenagers, National Identity, and the Lessons of the Holocaust.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 18, 2004. 188-201.
  75. Lazar, A., Chaitin, J., Gross, T., and Bar-On, D. “A Journey to the Holocaust: Modes of Understanding among Israeli Adolescents who Visited Poland.” Educational Review, 56, 2004. 13-31.
  76. Liebman, C.S. and Don-Yehiya, E. Civil religion in Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
  77. Resnik, J. ”Sites of memory of the Holocaust: Shaping National Memory of the Education System in Israel.” Nations and Nationalism, 9, 2003. 297-317.
  78. Shapira, A. “On the spiritual rootlessness and circumscription to the ‘here and now’ in the Sabra world view.” Eds. D. Urian and E. Karsh. Jewish aspects in Israeli culture. London: Frank Cass, 1999.
  79. Stier, O.B. Committed to Memory: Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.
  80. Totten, S., and Markusen, E. (2006). Genocide in Darfur: Investigating the atrocities in the Sudan. New York and London: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006.
  81. Zerubavel, E. “Social memories: Steps to sociology of the past.” Qualitative Sociology, 19, 1996. 283-299.
  82. Zerubavel, Y. “1he death of memory and the memory of death: Massada and the Holocaust as historical metaphors.” Representations, 45, 1994. 72-100.
  83. Zerubavel, Y. “The ‘mythological Sabra’ and Jewish past: trauma, memory, and contested identities.” Israel Studies, 7, 2002. 115-144.