It is certainly surreal seeing Israeli youth roam Poland draped in Israeli flags
Photo: AFP

It's all about the flags

Polish critics mostly disturbed by Israeli youngsters draped in flags

It was just a matter of time. To tell you the truth, I am surprised it took so long for the management of the Auschwitz Museum to contact our embassy in Warsaw to lodge an official complaint about Israel's youth delegations.


This complaint came several days after a Polish weekly publicized a "survey" on Israeli delegations to Poland which "revealed" that numerous scandals prompted hotels to refuse hosting young Israelis. It's hard to believe that these positions were not coordinated and that it was purely a coincidence that the museum and the news weekly reached identical conclusions at the same time.


The museum's management, with all due respect, is among other things complaining about the telephone calls Israelis make from "inside the gas chambers," and that they light memorial candles that could ignite fires in cell blocks. Even the custom upheld by Israeli youth to roam the streets draped in Israeli flags "is unacceptable" to them.


And here lies the root of the problem. It's not the phone calls from inside the gas chambers, if indeed such calls were made, (in more than 100 visits to Auschwitz I have never once encountered such a phone call), and not the fear of a fire breaking out (there is no such risk because the cell block is a high and wide structure while the memorial candles are small and placed on the ground) that made the museum management lodge a complaint. What really irked them was the Israeli flag


And it is true; the image of hundreds of youngsters roaming the streets of Poland draped in Israeli flags is surreal to say the least. This is the straw that broke the camel's back, or to be more precise, it was the flag that "broke the back" of the museum and the weekly.


Put things in proportion

And to the matter itself: We too have often commented that there are random cases of inappropriate behavior by young Israelis in Poland. But they are the exception to the rule. The majority, more than 30,000 Israelis who visit Poland every year, are most certainly well behaved. Exceptions are not an Israeli "monopoly." There are also incidences of inappropriate behavior by youngsters from other countries, including in Poland.


We have to put things in proportion. Neither the museum, nor the weekly or the Polish authorities would want to put an end to Israelis visiting Poland. The Israeli delegations leave large sums of money behind, and clearly Warsaw's authorities are interested in the continuation of these visits on condition, of course, that those responsible for the delegations ensure that ugly acts are not committed.


As to Poland's other complaint, according to which "tours of the camps" give visitors the impression that Poland is simply a "large graveyard" - it should be noted that this description is true.


For the Jewish people, Poland is indeed such – although not by its own volition. It was the Germans who devised, planned and executed the extermination of European Jews in Polish territory. It was the Germans who chose the nation they first conquered during World War II to set up their network of killing factories. Israeli guides should repeatedly explain and emphasize this.


פרסום ראשון: 06.07.07, 18:18
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