Israel to teach about Holocaust to pre-schoolers

Israel is launching a new programme to extend instruction on the Holocaust to children in kindergarten, despite some public criticism that they are too young to understand.

"For the first time, there is a comprehensive educational programme 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 programme 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.

The new programme, to be implemented in public educational institutions from September, was announced just ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, which begins Sunday night.

Until now, only high schoolers have been methodologically taught the subject.

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 emphasised," 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.

But clinical psychologist Daniel Brami told AFP that "using stories to tell the history is good."

"It could explain to the children what happened before the inception of Israel (in 1948) and its army, and create more identity with the country," said Brami, who works in a school in the central city Rishon Letzion.

An opinion piece in Friday's edition of left-leaning Haaretz defended the programme 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.

The programme was devised by "well known experts, including educators, advisers and psychologists," wrote Ofer Aderet. "So what is actually so bad about it?"