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Are preschoolers ready to learn about the Holocaust?

The new initiative by the Education Ministry to introduce the Holocaust into the preschool curriculum has provoked a heated debate as to whether its motives are educational or nationalist.
Children play at the Hagar pre-school and kindergarten in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba January 29, 2009. The school, which was closed for three weeks during the fighting in Gaza, is located within the range of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. Beersheba was the target of several rocket strikes during the conflict. But this school is attempting to bridge some of the cultural chasms which split the region. 25 of the school's pupils are Jewish and 25 are Arab. Picture taken January 29,
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In an interview with the Globes newspaper on April 27, author and Holocaust survivor Uri Orlev, who wrote some of the best-known works of children’s literature about the Holocaust (including "The Island on Bird Street" and "Run, Boy, Run") was asked how to explain the Holocaust to children. “When my son was seven,” Orlev responded, “he asked me, ‘How did you escape from the Germans?’ I didn’t know how to explain it to him.” After much thought, he responded to his son with an allegory about life and death, which he originally heard from a Polish girl.

Orlev is not a great supporter of Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron’s new curriculum to begin teaching the Holocaust in preschool. “It’s not wise,” he said in the same interview. “He got a bit carried away. How can anyone tell a story like that to someone so young?”

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