Despite the frequency with which students from high schools and colleges worldwide visit Holocaust death camps, it was no simple matter for Issa Jameel when he was asked whether he wanted to visit Auschwitz. For Jameel, a Palestinian master’s student from Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, the opportunity was laced with political and nationalistic issues his peers don’t often consider. According to Jameel, it was only when he realized it would be an important educational experience to learn about the Jews in the Holocaust during the Second World War that he was convinced and signed on as student coordinator for the trip.
“Until when will we keep hearing the Israeli narrative of what happened?” Jameel asked this reporter in the library of the American studies department on the Al-Quds campus in the Abu Dis neighborhood of Jerusalem. “Why don’t we find out for ourselves?” he asked.
The result was the first delegation of its kind: a March trip by 27 students to Auschwitz and Birkenau camps in Poland led by Prof. Mohammad Dajani Daoudi, dean of the American studies program.
“I was not shy to admit that I was going, and I was not afraid to say so because I was going to learn. As a Palestinian, I feel for others because we are suffering,” Jameel said.
“The idea is to study empathy in order to affect feelings of reconciliation,” Dajani explained. “We are exposing Palestinian students to what happened during World War II – in particular, the Holocaust concentration camps. At the same time, we are taking 30 Israeli students to visit Palestinians who suffered as a result of the 1948 Nakba.”