Study Mission is Memorable for All


Introductory Statement by
Gideon Goldstein
I*EARN Coordinator, Israel

I*EARN, in association with its funding foundation: The Copen Family Fund, offers participants of the Holocaust/Genocide project a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come as close as possible to comprehending the scope and horror of the Holocaust, as well as examining the "Phoenix" effect as portrayed by the birth and existence of Israel.

[ Students on Study Mission ]
American and Israeli Students
on Study Mission

Each spring (in the northern hemisphere), a group of students and teachers participates in an annual, two week study mission to Poland and Israel. Travelers on this mission spend a week in Poland, examining, together with a group of students from Israel, the past and present of that country. The Poland itinerary includes excursions to extermination camp sites such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Majdanek, as well as The Warsaw Ghetto, the Krakow Jewish Underground headquarters and the Plashow work camp site (The latter are the scenes of Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film, Schindler's List.) When time permits, other Polish attractions are visited such as the old town and the famous Chopin (Lazienki) Gardens of Warsaw, The Royal Castle and Cloth Market of Krakow, and the popular, Polish ski resort at Zakopane.

[ Synagogue Artifacts ]
Poland: Synagogue Artifacts

After one week in Poland, students and teachers fly to Israel from Warsaw. During this second week's visit, participants are home-hosted by the Israeli students and then visit the old and new parts of Jerusalem, spend a day in Tel-Aviv, and tour the Judean Desert, The Dead Sea, and the archaeological site of Massada. On a full day trip to Israel's north, we visit the Galilee, retracing steps of Jesus Christ in Nazareth and Sea of Galilee. We climb the Golan Heights, area of dispute and the focus of current negotiations for peace between Israel and Syria.

[ Warsaw Street ]
Street in Warsaw, Poland

An important component of the trip is the meeting with Israeli friends. Traveling together through Poland, and later enjoying homestays with Israeli families, make this an unforgettable experience for everyone.


On Monday, we visited the Warsaw graveyard and the only synagogue left in Warsaw. A gentleman spoke in Yiddish; Shalom, a Holocaust survivor, translated the Yiddish to Hebrew, and Gideon translated the Hebrew into English. The gentleman spoke of the problems Jewish people still have to face in Poland. On the outside of the synagogue was the graffiti which read, "JUDE IS DEAD," and several swastikas covered the building. At the time, the inside of the synagogue was being repainted.

"I had read about the graffiti in the newspaper. I am so happy we got the chance to get the painter to paint over the graffiti outside," said Mrs. Kern, our teacher....

Following the Passover holiday, the Americans traveled to Jerusalem where we stayed for two days at the Israel Arts and Science Academy.

Many of the sites we visited were in some way tied to Christ. We dipped our feet in the portion of the River Jordan where Christ allegedly swam. In addition, we walked to eight of the thirteen Stations of the Cross. We spent a large portion of our time in churches....

Stephanie Pindyck
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

 *

I learned a lot from actually going to Poland and to Israel. It was too short a trip to really do and see and learn as much as I would have liked. Seeing the awful camps in Poland linked what I had previously learned about the Holocaust with what I later learned by talking to the Israeli students, adults, parents, grandparents, and friends. I better understand that Israelis are very passionate about their country and their history because the present is directly connected to the past....I needed each piece of the picture: my previous leanings, the trip to Poland, and the visit to Israel. If any one piece had been missing, my understandings would have been incomplete.

Julie Rosenoff, Teacher
Spokane Valley High School
Washington

 *

As it turned out, the trip to Poland and Israel just might have been the greatest experience of my life.... Even though I don't believe in such a thing as chance or fate, I believe that somewhere, someone or something knew that I needed to go on this trip and that it would seriously affect my life and the way that I live it. To this person or thing, I owe my most sincere thanks.

Paul Magyar
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

 *

The concentration camps of Poland met us with on the ground and the thoughts of horror in our minds. Ten Americans and thirty-five Israelis all walked side by side through Auschwitz looking at the twenty-two Nazi bunkers, each containing some remnant from the Holocaust. There were thousands of suitcases, shoes, cosmetics, dishware, hair, crutches, artificial limbs, and clothing from adults and babies. Our eyes carefully took in all that we saw, and the thoughts on my mind were simple: Why and how could this have occurred?

Joey Bergida
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

 *

For me, the trip was a truly amazing experience (well, words can't really describe it) that has had a big impact in many ways, not just in Holocaust studies, but also in my knowledge of different cultures and racial views. The most moving moment on the trip for me, was standing at Birkenau during the commemoration ceremony, while the Israeli students were singing in Hebrew, and staring at the field of chimneys. I was trying to imagine how big Birkenau was, and what living conditions must have been like for people there.

Ben McMahon
Broadford Seconday College
Australia

 *

Our trip to Poland was long in many ways. Firstly, some of us spent months fundraising, working at weekends and begging cash, not ever really knowing if the trip would happen. Secondly, the physical trip itself is long -- both in hours spent in transit and in a change in culture -- from sunny, safe Australia, to cold Poland with its European ways, then to Israel where every Western culture in History has left a fingerprint.

However, the psychological journey is far longer than any other. In a fortnight, we witnessed both the depths and peaks of human nature. We saw places where unimaginable horrors took place, but met with people who took us into their homes and spoke with survivors who willingly told their stories and became our friends.

Kathy Skidmore
HGP Facilitator and Teacher
Broadford Secondary College
Australia

 *

The trip to Poland and Israel, was a remarkable experience for me in many ways. It was made extremely powerful by the inclusion of a survivor. Inka Wajsbort, quickly became my friend, and I remember agonizing for her as we travelled towards the Czechoslovakian border and she pointed out where her mother and younger sister had holidayed before the war before they were exterminated at a camp. She talked of sleigh rides in the snow.

I could see the sense of childhood and innocence in her eyes as she spoke. Her lack of bitterness and sense of dignity astounded me. I've become aware of the fear these survivors have of the time when they are all gone. In recent days I have despaired that they have had to witness a re-enactment of injustices in Bosnia. Will mankind never learn? Was their sacrifice in vain?

Joanne Tate, Teacher
Lake Bolac Secondary College
Australia

 *

...I will never forget the feeling I got walking through that dark, underground passageway that represented the lost lives of the children of the Holocaust....

Zach Kostura
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

 *

...Anyway, we all miss you very much already. It was great to be with you in Poland and in Israel. Everybody enjoyed hosting each and every member of your group. I'm happy to hear that you have already started to put our plan in action. Let's hope that your proposal will be accepted.

I have the feeling that what we've experienced and seen together led to a strong and long lasting friendship. I personally feel as if I've known you for ages. I hope that visiting Israel will in due course become a tradition. Hope to hear from you again soon. Give my regards to everybody.

Nili Eldar, Principal
ORT Comprehensive High School
Kiryat Motzkin, Israel

 *

To those I met on the Poland Israel experience: Gideon, Honey, Julie, the students and parents and faculty members, I love you all. I am inspired by your presence. Thanks for the wonderfully fulfilling exchange of love, time, travels and thoughts. The trip and the people have enriched my life as a man and as an artist. I am truly grateful for this experience of a lifetime....

Gary LaTurner, Teacher
Sammamish High School
Bellevue, Washington

 *

...I learned so much on the trip, over and above the roots of my past and the importance of my country. I learned to appreciate each human being because they are human beings and that we must never judge a person by his appearance or his religion. The Holocaust should teach us how not to be.

We must develop tolerance for people different from ourselves and be wary of prejudices. We need to develop the good in us and not the evil.

Anat Tel
(Translated by Patrice Perez)
ORT Arad High School
Arad, Israel

 *

Dear Gideon,

Right now, I'm painting an Egyptian mural on the hall wall, and I just finished my thesis on the Occupied Territories. I'll send you a copy as soon as the final one is done....

I enjoyed the trip very much and I haven't stopped thinking about it since I got back.

Thank you for teaching me.

Sara Cahn
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

 *

Yad Vashem Children's Memorial
Jerusalem, Israel

Go ahead walk in. Take a look around. Look at what? What am I about to see? More baby clothes? Human hair? Thousands of shoes? I'm not sure if I can.....

No. Not at all. This evidence is a lot less tangible. The kinds of emotions you're about to experience are all self- ignited; not a whole lot there to spark your pain. It's all in the way it's interpreted.

I walked down the gentle slope and in through the door with my friend, Amit. I had no idea what was inside. We entered, hand in hand, into darkness. What stood before me I will never forget. Thousands of tiny, mirrored lights the innocent eyes of children. Voices monotonously read names of the children who perished in the Holocaust. I turned around, and Amit was gone. It was dark; everywhere I looked were lights calling, please help me. I spun around and more darkness confronted me. Where am I ? What is happening? Amit? Mother?.... Spinning, turning, crashing, tripping over myself and others. I felt as though I was emotionally losing control.

Where are you? Anyone? Who will help me? How is it possible that being in one tiny room can momentarily turn me, a sixteen year old Australian student into a six year old Jewish child, lost in Hitler's grasp? How can this be happening? Get me out. I want to go home.... I found my way out, and the sunshine of Israel greeted me, and there was Amit standing outside looking somber, as were the rest of our delegation. Was I the only one who felt like this? Compelled to stay inside and listen to every name. To somehow justify the death of a child by doing so. Impossible to stay, yet impossible to go. Limbo....

Jasmin K. Shackleton
Broadford Secondary College
Australia

 *

This is the preliminary report on the HGP study trip by Russian kids and teachers to Israel. The trip took place between April 15 and April 26 this year and included two important events: the Holocaust Memorial Day on April 16 and the Day of Independence of Israel on April 24.

For the first of these events, the Russian delegation was hosted by the school, ORT Megadim, in the town of Karmiel in the northern part of Israel. The principal of the school is Alex Furman who organized an extremely efficient program of home stays for Russian kids and teachers as well as their participation in three ceremonies dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims: the all-town ceremony, the school ceremony, and the ceremony commemorating victims from a small, Yugoslavian community.

This trip to Israel was one of the most important events in our lives since we joined the HGP. Being here during the Holocaust Memorial Day, and participating in the ceremonies which took part in Karmiel together with our friends from ORT Megadim school, impressed us greatly. We felt ourselves part of the great family of people who care about the memory of those who become victims of genocide. We hope that we will be working together with other students and not only from Israel. Telecommunications will help us to involve more and more students into this work and achieve more understanding between young people.

Students of Moscow School #444
Russia

 *

Today, two years after visiting the extermination camps, this journey to the past does not seem the same anymore. Now we can certainly say that we've comprehended. Between all the strange smiles we had behind the sadness, there was a hidden feeling that we were in the most horrible place which could ever be described.

This awful fright mingled with the knowledge that this whole place was surrounded by death, the death of a multitude of Jews, the death of families, of our families. In that moment we were the proudest people on earth, a bunch of students from "O.R.T Motzkin," who not long before were having fun, were doing foolish things. We were the fellows who, minutes ago, were sitting in the bus, busy telling jokes, and suddenly, we became the delegates of our country, delegates of millions of victims. We fell into an ocean of emotions -- fear, confusion, a lot of sorrow, but most of all, we had a strong intention to prove to everybody that we won, that this time we arrived as a proud people, as a free nation -- a nation that could proudly wave its flag.

We were there, and we knew that we, soon to be soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces, would do anything in order to shield our independence and keep us a free people.

At Majdanek, Auschwitz, and Treblinka, there was some kind of a desire to shout for freedom, for liberation, a desire to break all the oppressive borders made by the stone, by the wind, and by the chill. It was the wish to do anything in order to remember always the heroism -- the human wars, not only the big wars, not only the apparent wars with the weapons and the inhuman struggle in order to rebel, but also the wish to remember the small stories, the stories of the individuals who had the courage to stand helplessly against the "human animals." Yes, they were not monsters. They were human beings, like us.

And the questions start to arise. How did these people have the power to take the destiny of millions of souls into their hands? What is the nature of entire countries, which were around or in this horror, and who were silent and didn't do anything? What is the uniqueness, the greatness of these people who are now living here fifty years later?

And there are no answers, and maybe there won't be, but we know that we have come back stronger, loving, and more appreciating life than before.

This journey we've passed I tried to put into words, but it's difficult to express it, the feelings. Each one of us keeps them deep, deep inside of him, but I wish that more of us would be able to visit, to see, and to feel it themselves. Yes, it was hard. It still is, but today, we know that we will do anything to remember in order to pass to others this hardest experience we have ever passed.

Still hoping to live in a better world without crimes or death, dreaming of a better world without wars, we dream about peace.

Hiller Hamer
(Translated by Liron Dorfman)
ORT Motzkin High School
Kiryat Motzkin, Israel

 *

Two days ago a group of six teenagers and four teachers arrived in Israel from Moscow in order to learn about the Holocaust in Israel. We, a group of 10 teenagers (9th-10th grades) volunteered to host the Russian visitors in our homes.

Our school, ORT Megadim, has dedicated 9 days during which the students reach out and feel the horrifying world of the Holocaust. Our school brought in and took us to hear Holocaust survivors talking about their lives. Documentary movies were shown to us: Schindler's List, and Anne Frank's diary. We think that the most unique project that our school raised is a basement that was designed for Holocaust Day.

It is sort of like a small museum with only one exhibition: the history of the Holocaust. This project exists in our school for more than 5 years. This year, the exhibition of the Museum is dedicated to Gidon Housmer, who was the Israeli prosecutor in the Eichmann trial. Also our school arranged several outings to museums all over Israel. We hope that we succeeded to show you how we here in Israel relate and remember the days of the Holocaust. We also hope that we enriched your knowledge about the Holocaust.

Sivan Freedner, Hamulal Baror,
Helly Rise, and Keren Kreindler
ORT Megadim, Israel

 *

Dear Mr Copen,

I'm writing to answer the topics Bill forwarded to me. So here they are:

  1. Highlights of the HGP this year: There were so many highlights from the trip this year in April, so many, that I would be here for years trying to list them all. But I suppose the main thing that I or we all got was learning some very important lessons of life. We not only learned about the camps, Poland, Israel and the Jewish religion but learned about our feelings. I think you could say that maybe we rediscovered ourselves (so to speak). I mean that we have all changed for the better after this trip. We are more tolerant towards minority groups in Australia.

    For example, before I went on the trip, I or any of the others would not have hesitated in saying a racist joke or making a comment about a suburb which is mainly comprised of another racial group or religion. But now, all of us are strongly against saying things about other groups because we now know what it is like to be the minority in a foreign country.

    We can't say that we aren't racist because everyone is brought up with some kind of racist view. For example, I can't help thinking that when I walk past a teenage Asian in the street, that they are part of a gang and go around rolling people for clothes or even assaulting people. I didn't just get this from my parents, but you hear it on the news. It is really hard to delete something which has been programmed into you at such early ages. Now, when I see a teenage Asian, and this pops into my mind, I think to myself that I shouldn't be stereotyping him or her just because some Asians aren't nice people because some European people aren't nice either.

    I hope you can understand what I mean, because it is really hard to put into words what I think and feel. And, of course, you know about the situation in Burger King in Lublin, Poland when we were told to put our jackets on to cover our jumpers. (We had a Star of David design on them).


  2. Summarize your own fundraising from this year: I hadn't decided to go to Poland and Israel at first because I didn't have enough money and wasn't really interested to start with. I offered to help Jasmin and Sonya with ideas for fundraising, and then I eventually became part of the group because I got more and more interested with what they were doing. We started fundraising in about mid- September of 1994 to try and have about twenty thousand dollars for us to go plus money for our teacher Kathy Skidmore to chaperone us.


  3. We had stalls at markets on weekends, and more often than less, both Saturdays and Sundays. We had raffles, competitions, sausage sizzles, trivia night and other things. It was very hard work but it made us appreciate our money. We ended up raising about eleven thousand dollars from fundraising and donations. We were money short on going, so the Whalesong Foundation sponsored us with the rest to cover costs. We ended up going after all of our hard work and Whalesong's generosity.

  4. Assess what worked well: One of the things that really worked well with our group was that after fundraising all our money together, we not only had a good teacher-student relationship, but we were, and still are, good friends. I find that now I can't class the teachers that went with us as teachers because we are good friends, and this causes good things and bad things. But it was really good being able to have teachers who were supportive, and who trusted us with everything because they knew that we wouldn't let them down.

  5. Aaron O'Shannessy
    Broadford Secondary College
    Victoria, Australia



[ Treblinka Entrance Monument ]
Entrance to Treblinka
Extermination Camp Site

Go to Treblinka

Go to Treblinka
Open your eyes wide
Sharpen your hearing
Hold your breath
And listen to the sounds filtering
From every grain of earth....

Go to Treblinka to feel it even for a second
Go to Treblinka
Grow a flower with a warm tear,
With a human breath
In front of one of the stones.
A memory to the whole community
On earth that is their body ashes
They're waiting there at Treblinka for you to come
And listen to their stories
In the silence
And with this identification
Silent, Forgiving
You will bring them each time
The story of continuous life
Rejuvenating life.

Go to Treblinka for all time
Don't leave them alone.

Itay Levy, Teacher
Ravid Tikotzky, Miri Algavish,
Shira Zarvib, Sehavit Pick
Keren Weinberg and students
from ORT Motzkin High School,
Kiryat Motzkin, Israel

 *

Bread

I would like a loaf of bread
A loaf big and white
Just to myself
A complete loaf
So fresh, hot, full of the scent
Of cumin with sage
With the snapping crust
Brown bread
And bury your teeth in it
And enjoy it enthusiastically
Enjoy the taste for a long time
And feel the pleasure of the palate
Feel how it heals the stomach in its incessant hunger -- Bread.

Itay Levy, Teacher
Ravid Tikotzky, Miri Algavish,
Shira Zarvib, Sehavit Pick
Keren Weinberg and students
from ORT Motzkin High School,
Kiryat Motzkin, Israel

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