Habil and Abir Abu Siam, rising ninth and 10th-grade students respectively, were happy to hear that next year they would be joining the first delegation of Bedouin students to visit the concentration camps in Poland.
“When I told them, they were excited, because it means traveling abroad,” said the girls’ father, Said Abu Siam. “But I think it’s truly important that they travel and see exactly what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust, that they know that this is what can happen to a minority facing an aggressive majority, and the world didn’t prevent it. It will also teach them that one must not silence a minority.”
Al-Najah principal Salem al-Krinawi said his community’s adoption of the idea reflects their ties to the state. “The Al-Krinawi and Abu Siam clans are known for being moderate, faithful to the state and living in close cooperation with Jewish society,” he said.
“It’s very important to me to bequeath to the students [an understanding of] what violence between ethnic groups and nations can bring about,” said Al-Krinawi. “Our students study it in history, but I want them to feel it.”
Al-Krinawi said the students learn they too could have been targeted. “The Holocaust shocked the world, and it could have happened anywhere,” he said. “When we study it, we emphasize that Hitler would not have stopped with the Jews, and would have eventually gotten to the Arabs as well.”
Eli Sheetrit, who heads the society and youth department in the Education Ministry’s southern district, said he was a little surprised by the extent to which school supervisors, principals, teachers and students in the Bedouin sector were open to the idea of traveling to Poland. Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krinawi even proposed contributing $200 per student from the municipal budget. The Education Ministry is to contribute an additional $400 per student.
I agree that it is vitally important for Arabs to learn about the Holocaust, which for better or worse forms a huge part of the identity of Jews and in particular Israelis, who built their nation in its wake.
And this article subtly raises some difficult topics: why are the Bedouin, who are for the most part thoroughly loyal citizens, marginalized? The radicalization of younger Bedouin is a problem Israel is largely creating by itself, and while sending Bedouin students to Poland is a good idea, the more effective way to stem growing discontentment among Bedouin is to stop treating them as second-class citizens.
Obviously, the Bedouin are working towards understanding us. We should work a little harder towards understanding them.