Warsaw, Poland – A large-scale Israeli student trip to Poland has been cancelled at the last minute over an ongoing diplomatic dispute, The Times of Israel reported.
Israel’s Ministry of Education announced earlier this week that the heritage summer trip planned for about 7,000 Israeli high-school students had to be scrapped over Poland’s refusal to let Shin Bet agents carry weapons during the stay.
“Negative feelings towards Poland and Poles”
“It has been decided at this time that the activities of the youth delegations to Poland will be frozen,” reads an Education Ministry missive sent to high-school principals.
Israeli authorities claim that Poland has, contrary to previous years, refused to let agents from Shin Bet, the country’s internal security service in charge of supervising the trip, carry weapons while on Polish territory.
“On the basis of past experience, we assess that Israeli youth often return from these trips with negative feelings towards today’s Poland and Poles,” Polish deputy-Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński said to justify their decision.
“They perceive our country only through the prism of Nazi German concentration camps, they do not learn about the entirety of the thousand years of Polish-Jewish relations, and they are noticeably isolated from contacts with their Polish peers,” he added.
Dispute over Holocaust remembrance
But in response, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted that “they [the Poles] can’t tell us what to teach Israeli children”, noting that relations between the two countries soured because of Poland’s memorial laws passed in recent years.
“The Poles wanted to mess with the content of the trips and what can or can’t be said to Israeli children visiting”, he said.
Negotiations are still ongoing, according to media reports, with hopes on both sides to find a solution to allow the thousands of Israeli students visit heritage sites in the Central European country.
For years, thousands of Israeli students have been taking part in an educational trip to Poland to visit landmarks of European Jewry and learn more about the Holocaust at Nazi death camps and memorials.
This initiative was suspended over the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and over an ongoing spat regarding Polish legislation imposing strict limitations to World War II-era property restitution claims.