|Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie addresses the Israeli student delegation
In March 2012, the Israel National Union of University Studentsí delegation to Poland included, for the first time, an Israeli university president. Prof. Peretz Lavie and his wife, Dr Lena Lavie, accompanied the 110 students for the last three days.
Why did you go with the Technion student delegation to the Death Camps in Poland?
During my first year of presidency the students approached me regarding Poland and I agreed to join this mission, but until now I didnít have the opportunity. It was my first time in Poland. The Technionís 22 students were the largest contingent of all the universities.
What are your overall impressions of the delegation?
The preparation undertaken by the students is crucial. Two survivors accompanied the delegation and walked with us through the camp, indicating where they had been, where they hid, what they smuggled, where Mengele stood. Together with these personal stories, you get a very important educational experience. I congratulate the Student Union for this. The Technion delegation organized the final event in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was simply incredible. For me, it was an earth-shattering experience. Human nature is to deny events such as these. But it certainly happened.
One of the most moving moments was in the forest near Krakow, where 800 children were brutally murdered. How can you explain such an event?
This is a very philosophical question.
Students at entrance to Auschwitz
Witnessing the studentsí responses, how they expressed themselves, I believe that they grew up emotionally and with respect to their self-identity. Israel should not be taken for granted-there was an overwhelming awareness that you must have a state of your own and control your own destiny. When we left, we knew that we had won. They couldnít destroy us.
My take-home messages are:
Take responsibility for your life and your own future - essential for our survival; Keep in mind events like these that teach us modesty, respect for others, and humility; Be proud that the Jewish People - in less than a century after the Holocaust - miraculously built a country with 10 Nobel laureates, one with an economy that is the envy of every country in the world.
Israel is not only a start-up nation. It is the first country to come to the aid of disaster areas globally. This is part of our DNA. Maybe itís because no one came to the help of the Jews in the Holocaust.
Would you recommend to other university presidents that they follow your example?
As the first university president to undertake this I would certainly recommend to my colleagues to encourage their faculty to participate or indeed to go themselves. It contributes to the educational part of the mission. I addressed the students, I ate meals with them, I prepared my sandwiches with them - it was a unifying experience and allowed me to meet the students informally.
Omri Zilka, a third-year student of architecture and town planning and Masha Friedman, vice chair of the Technion Student association and in her third year of studies in biotechnology and food engineering, also discuss their take on the soul-searching visit to the camps in a film clip.