Visit to Israel a life-changing experience

By Genevieve Helliwell

Meeting a Holocaust survivor, mentioned by Anne Frank as her best friend in school, was one of Murray Armstrong's highlights during an educational trip to Israel.

The lasting memories, tours of Jerusalem and university lectures has helped the Tauranga Girls' College teacher to begin the school year with new material.

"The focus of the trip was on the world Holocaust and for educators in New Zealand to learn more about this and deliver the new knowledge into the school curriculum," Mr Armstrong said.

"The Germans did a good job to try to destroy all the evidence at the end of the war but over time historians have found out new information and put pieces of the jigsaw puzzle back together ... so even though it's history, the information is always changing."

Mr Armstrong, who is head of Social Sciences at the college, was one of 23 secondary school teachers from around the country invited on the two-week seminar, based at the World Holocaust Centre at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

During the trip, the group listened to presentations by university professors, toured Jerusalem and historical sites of Israel, including a trip to the Syrian border.

One of the highlights of his trip was meeting Holocaust survivors, including Hanna Pick, who was mentioned by Anne Frank as her best friend in school.

Travelling across borders and having his passport checked was a new experience.

"But when they learnt we were Kiwis they were much more lenient with us," he said.

"Having not been to Israel before I had some preconceptions but these were often challenged. Walking through the streets and catching the train I always felt safe. When we went to Palestine I was expecting to see soldiers and there weren't any there, but one of our guides said the soldiers would arrive if they needed to."

Mr Armstrong described his educational trip as a "life-changing experience".

The trip was made possible through the sponsorship of Yad Vashem and supported with the assistance of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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