It was with palpable excitement that 19 educators from the 8 districts in the Western Cape, together with Heather Blumenthal and Linda Hackner, boarded a flight to Israel for a 10-day seminar at Yad Vashem in December.
The purpose of the workshop was to give Grade 9 history teachers a deeper insight into Holocaust history and to learn from some of the best educators in the world. The course consisted of many different teaching styles — with practical pedagogies, intensive lectures and discussion formats being used. Many of the teachers commented that their teaching had been ‘Hitler centred’ rather than looking at the broader issues as well as the people who were victimised. What resonated for them as South Africans was the understanding of how essential it is to humanise people who have suffered, and how their teaching would change as a result of attending the course. The tour through the Yad Vashem Museum and other memorial sites was extremely emotional, after which they had a debriefing session. They met survivors and were able to engage with each individual, ask questions and have meaningful discussions.
Apart from the intense learning, the group was also taken on specific tours. They visited the Old City where they were able to see, touch and say prayers at the Western Wall, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and attended a Friday night service at a local synagogue in Jerusalem, which was followed by a very lively Shabbat dinner. Later in the week they enjoyed an evening tour of the tunnels, and Yad Vashem was also able to arrange a visit to the Temple Mount where they could see the outside of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This visit, together with having been at the Wall and also through the tunnels, afforded them a deeper understanding of the issues that concern this part of the world. A visit to Masada and the Dead Sea guided by Amir Golani — a well-known Israeli Archaeologist — were among the many highlights of their trip.
Although the members of the group had not met each other prior to the seminar, they all bonded very quickly and the shared experience resulted in a memorable trip and an incredibly successful seminar. Each and every participant felt that their students and colleagues would benefit from their positive experience and new found knowledge.
To read the Editor’s column for February click here
To read or download the February issue of the Chronicle in PDF click here
To read the most read article of the December/January issue, click here
Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here
Visit the Yad Vashem website