This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, learn how educators at Dror Israel choose to bring Holocaust remembrance to all corners of Israeli society, including health care workers.
For years Dror Israel educators have educated about the horrible events of the Holocaust, commemorating the individuals and communities murdered and remembering the individual and communal acts of rebellion and heroism that occurred. Dror educators bring educational content related to the Holocaust to hundreds of schools, colleges and community centers. Additionally, specially trained Dror Israel educators guide thousands of Israeli teenagers and adults on educational trips to Poland each year.* Because of their deep, ongoing commitment to Holocaust commemoration and education, recently Dror Israel has continued to expand its Holocaust educational activities, including educational trips to Poland for adult participants from all walks of life in Israeli society.
In May 2022, Dror Israel educators led a special five-day educational trip to Poland for 120 workers of the Meuhedet health insurance and medical services organization (one of four state-mandated health funds for Israeli residents). The participants came from almost every sector of Israeli society: religious and secular, Jews, Arabs, Druze, women, men and from all different occupational titles: lab technicians, doctors, nurses, administrative directors, medical social workers and more. All employees were invited to participate in the trip, which was heavily subsidized by the organization.
Like the many other Dror Israel educational trips to Poland, the group learned about Jewish life in the Diaspora and changes in Jewish communal life during their three-day preparation process before the trip and throughout their time on the ground in Poland. Participants deepened their understanding of the Holocaust via stories of different communities across Poland and visits to various ghettos, labor camps and extermination camps.
As Dror Israel takes its name after the historical “Dror” Zionist youth movement which was founded in Poland in the early 19th century and whose youth movement members were active leaders in several rebellions during the Holocaust, a special emphasis on these trips is placed on Jewish heroism during the Holocaust. Minor and major acts of resistance are discussed, including the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as well as individual acts of rebellion, such as those of Jewish educator and orphanage director Janusz Korczak.
Keren Sagi, a Dror Israel educator from the educators’ community in Haifa and one of the Dror Israel guides of the Poland trip, explains that since this trip was comprised of health care workers, a choice was made to delve deeper into the subject of medicine as related to the Holocaust. They learned about the choices made by Jewish doctors and nurses in the ghetto to continue to fight to save lives during a time of rampant death and disregard for human life. Additionally, participants learned about the subject of Nazi medicine and use of medicine in the Nazi extermination process. Together as a group, they asked difficult questions about ethics and morality in the world of medical science.
Sagi shared that the uniqueness of the trip was made clear to her during the groups visit to the Treblinka extermination camp. Once they arrived at the scene of the camp, an older doctor who, up until this point on the trip, had been a quiet participant, approached her and wanted to share a story: He had a patient at his clinic in Bat Yam who is a Holocaust survivor who had survived Treblinka. He remembered every single detail about this patient’s history, including the name of the small town from which he came. Sagi explains how she led this older doctor and the rest of the group to the memorial stone marker commemorating his patient’s lost community. Standing beside the memorial stone, this doctor took out a harmonica and portable speaker. He had recorded the melody of one of his patient’s favorite songs on the piano. He pushed play and began to play the harmonica to the prerecorded piano music. The stark contrast between the painful reality of the extermination camp and the humanity shown by this doctor, who had gone to such great lengths to honor his patient was all too apparent.
Sagi explains how this trip with health care workers as well as the other 30 trips she has guided, symbolizes Dror Israel’s commitment to commemorate the millions of lives lost and to bring the messages we can learn from the Holocaust to all of Israeli society. “Remembering those murdered, exploring the basic yet powerful choice every individual has to choose between good and evil and learning about the rebellion of the youth movements are subjects to be explored by every member of Israeli society. Bringing such complicated and difficult subject matter to a group with such a wide range of differing identities required high level of sensitivity and respect on the part of each guide as well as each participant. In a sharp contrast to what we see in many places today in Israeli society, the trip allowed the participants to partake in dialogue, to respect others’ opinions and to agree on how to disagree in a constructive manner.”
Sagi shares how this trip gives her hope that together, Israelis can create a different kind of society - one that is more just, more sensitive and more respectful to the different types of identities that exist. A society based on the belief that we can find value in the differences while simultaneously strengthening what connects us.
* Traditionally, Dror Israel guides thousands of teenagers on a unique educational trip to Poland, but because of Israeli and Polish government policies over the past few years, these trips have been suspended at this time. Dror Israel is at the forefront of the public struggle to reinstate these educational trips to Poland for Israeli youth.