'Expulsion from Spain, 1492'
The Education Ministry has approved high school trips to Spain, in addition to the traditional pilgrimage to Poland made annually by students.
The ministry claims the new voyage, organized by Geographic Tours, is part of its policy aimed at strengthening teens' Jewish identity. In order to do so, it says, the students should learn the history of their people.
The Jewish expulsion from Spain has always been a point of interest to Israelis. Contemporary musicians such as Berry Sakharof and Meir Banai have reworked and put to music poems written by famous Jewish poets who lived during the golden age of Spain's Jewish community.
The first students who took part in the voyage come from schools in Beersheba and Holon. "The students were very excited to visit the Jewish sites," said Gila Balish, principal of the Mekif Alef School in Beersheba.
"Our school is not religious, but there, with the stories of the pillaged and the expulsion from Spain, they felt a need to participate in the Shabbat blessing. We found that students who had completed their final exams understood and identified more with the Spanish poetry of the Middle Ages."
Orel Sa'ada, a tenth-grade student who recently returned from the voyage, said his family had lived in Spain before the expulsion. "The visits to the synagogues and the Jewish quarters were great experiences," he said.
Leah Netzer of Geographic Tours, who planned the voyage, said they were not a substitute for the voyage to Poland. "Both of the voyages reveal to students two communities in a state of crisis," she said.
"They reveal similar dilemmas shared by the Jewish leaders, both in Spain and in World War II Europe."