Israel is launching a new program to extend instruction on the Holocaust to children in kindergarten, despite some public criticism that they are too young to understand. The new program, to be implemented in public educational institutions from September, was announced just ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, which begins Sunday night.
“For the first time, there is a comprehensive educational program for Holocaust instruction to all age groups, from kindergarten to high school,” said a joint statement Friday from the education ministry and Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
“The program is designated for all age groups, and adapted to their emotional and cognitive abilities to deal with the topic and its meaning,” the statement said.
Until now, only high schoolers have been methodologically taught the subject, AFP reports. But teachers of all age groups were faced with the questions and difficulties of pupils ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, marked with ceremonies and a siren heard nationwide.
Educators will now have the tools to teach the sensitive topic in a more professional manner, the statement said, noting that the Holocaust would only be presented to pre-schoolers on the memorial day and the day before.
“Ahead of the siren, the children will be told that the Holocaust Memorial day is one in which we remember people who went through a difficult period many years ago (before the children and their parents were born). The geographic distance of the events will also be emphasized,” the statement read.
Simulations and plays illustrating the events and creating identity with them will be avoided, the statement noted. But some took to the social media to mock the initiative.
Posters maintained that the tender age of three was too young to be taught about Nazi Germany’s World War II “Final Solution,” which claimed the lives of six million of pre-war Europe’s 11 million Jews.
An opinion piece in Friday’s edition of left-leaning Haaretz defended the program as “balanced, measured, logical and mature” that “solves the genuine distress encountered by parents and teachers of young children” on explaining the siren and ceremonies of Holocaust Memorial Day.