The International School for Holocaust Studies
Teaching the Legacy: e-Newsletter for Holocaust Educators
News from the European Department (January, 2010)
Moroccan Educators at Yad Vashem
By Arièle Nahmias
In November 2009, eighteen teachers from Morocco came to Yad Vashem to participate in a tailor-made seminar on Holocaust education. The participants, each with advanced academic backgrounds, made serious preparations for the visit. “The purpose of the seminar – the first of its kind – was to get to know the history of the Jewish people and to renew the close connections between the Jews and the Berbers [a minority living in proximity to North Africa’s Jews, particularly in Morocco], a relationship that dates back more than 3,000 years,” explained Bobkar Autadit, the group’s leader.
The unique seminar combined encounters with politicians and journalists with the acquisition of historical knowledge and pedagogical tools for Holocaust teaching. Participants met with Members of Knesset Yaakov Edri (Kadima) and Daniel Ben Simon (Labor), both of whom are natives of Morocco. After listening to brief overviews on Israeli society, the Moroccan educators were delighted to have the opportunity to present their culture and explain the goal of their visit to Israel. MKs Edri and Ben Simon were particularly impressed by the dedicated teachers and their interest in the history of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.
Seminar participants were also given a special tour of the Holocaust History Museum and the exhibit “Besa: A Code of Honor” (a photographic exhibit of Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust), combining the historical narrative with personal stories. Throughout their visit, the educators expressed great interest and were actively involved in in-depth discussions. “We hope this seminar marks the beginning of closer cooperation between Israel and Morocco, in particular with the Berber tribes,” said one teacher.
Another participant, Ali Kadawi, expressed his impressions of Yad Vashem, and his encounter with the story of Holocaust survivor Hannah Gofrit, in a poem:
Hannah / Ali Kadawi
She was six and didn’t understand
they were expelling her from school
they sewed a yellow star on her clothes
they kept her away from her best friend
she alone remained in the street.
The Heavens were shamed.
What is a six-year-old guilty of?
Why did the girl turn into a needle in a haystack of the dead?
She was elsewhere
She was brave and saved her parents...
Dorit Novak, Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies, described the seminar as “vital.” “Educators from over 50 countries around the world come to Yad Vashem every year, but this time, the importance of our mission – to increase Holocaust remembrance and education throughout the world – was really brought home to us. Teaching about the Holocaust to citizens of Muslim countries is an absolutely critical task of the International School.”
The author works at the French Desk of the International School for Holocaust Studies.