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 Posted Wednesday, March 3, 1999

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Israel, March 27, 1999


Shots across the bow

Shmulik was here

by Aryeh Dayan

ISRAELI students visiting the Nazi death camps in Poland usually make a stop at the handsome building that once housed the Lublin Sages Yeshiva, the most important East European yeshiva of pre-Holocaust days.

The building, which has not changed in appearance since the 1930s, is today home to the Lublin University medical school. Its spacious hall, once the yeshiva's synagogue, is now used for lectures, and almost every one of the benches in the hall has been somehow marked by visiting Israelis. Rinat from Kfar Sava, for example, carved a Star of David on one bench. Yossi from Yehud signed his name beneath the inscription "we will not forgive and not forget." For Chaim from Tel Aviv and Eyal from Haifa, simply autographing the benches was enough. Someone else took the trouble to write graffiti in English, so that the Polish students would be sure to understand it: "F*ck the Christians."

This same mix of vandalism and phony patriotism can be found in the death camps themselves. Treblinka's impressive memorial site was disfigured last week by a tripod bearing a blackened tin can, which declared in English and Hebrew "We remember - Kiryat Haim Municipal High School, Haifa, Israel." The students from Jerusalem whose visit I accompanied removed this eyesore.

A small flag from the Hadassah-Neurim boarding school was found on the door of a crematorium in Auschwitz. A small Israeli flag made of plastic also adorned this doorway. In addition, someone had placed a Rabin memorial candle in a small niche in the wall of a Maidanek gas chamber.

When she was minister of education, Shulamit Aloni tried to initiate a public discussion of the nature of student missions to Poland. The enraged response silenced her immediately. Maybe we should try again.

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