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Winning Spirit: Prisoners in the "Israeli Journey" project visit the Ghetto Fighters' House

"Winning Spirit", a special program designed for prisoners to visit the Ghetto Fighters' Museum is celebrating its fifth year.   In an educational framework, prisoners visit the museum, meet Holocaust survivors and are exposed to their spiritual strength that was revealed while imprisoned under harsh conditions.

The motivating spirit responsible for the innovative program is Gundar Nazeem Sabiti, a Druze, who is commander of the Israel Prison Service central district.  Sabiti was first exposed to the Holocaust in 10th grade as a student in Bat Galim High School in Haifa.  One of the defining moments in his life was when he led a delegation of prison service staff to Poland.  He was the keynote speaker at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Majdanek where he stated:  “We stand here today, Jewish and Druze prison guards, brothers at arms, who believe in our country and in her security forces, certain that another Holocaust will never happen.” 

Nazeem Sabiti was the first to recognize the educational and moral significance of introducing prisoners to the stories of camp survivors. After discovering that hundreds of prisoners had never visited the Ghetto Fighters’ House or Yad Vashem, he worked non-stop to make possible the first introduction and day of learning for the first group of prisoners at the museum.  Sabiti is a leader of the approach that when facing the Holocaust, there is no difference between a prisoner and a free person.  Therefore, the prisoners visit the museum in civilian clothes and are not hand cuffed, which allows them a significant and formative experience that will remain with them long after their visit.

The first group, 250 prisoners from the “Hadarim” prison, learned about the Holocaust for three months in prison that culminated in a three day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House in November 2006.  Since then, hundreds of prisoners and prison guards have visited the museum each year as part of the “Winning Spirit” project.

On the Holocaust Remembrance Day in May 2011, Sabiti was invited to light one of the six torches at the ceremony that is held every year at the Ghetto Fighters’ House.

Prisoners in one of the exhibitions at the museum (Photo by Yaron Kaminsky)

Read the full article in Haaretz

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