Israelis Feel Good About Krakow

Not for the first time, journalist and Krakow Post contributor Nissan Tzur has stirred up strong emotions with his reporting.

In June, Nissan interviewed the recently appointed Chief Rabbi of Krakow, Eliezer Gur-Ari for the Israeli National News website.

The rabbi, who has lived in Krakow for eight years, replied to a question about anti-Semitism in Poland with the words: “Those who are not Jews, do not like Jews. Everyone understands and knows this.”

These comments provoked a storm of protest, both from some members of Poland’s Jewish community and from non-Jews who objected to being labelled anti-Semitic.

An open letter of protest from Polish-Jewish leaders, including the Director of the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow, Jonathan Ornstein, stated:

“These words essentially painted all non-Jews as anti-Semites. By doing so they insulted the 38 million non-Jewish Poles in this country and potentially compromised the efforts of Jews. In fact, we live in a Poland where many non-Jews work hand in hand with Jews to help restore Jewish memory and re-build Jewish life.”

Nissan told the Krakow Post that he regrets the controversy, and feels that Rabbi Eliezer Gur-Ari’s words are being used as ammunition in an internecine conflict within Krakow’s Jewish community.

He said: “As a Jew living in Krakow and trying to contribute to the revival of Jewish life here, I am saddened to see how the Jews of Krakow are staining each other’s names. I think that everybody should do some soul-searching.”

We asked Nissan to investigate how prevalent the views expressed by Rabbi Eliezer Gur-Ari are in his homeland, Israel. Tens of thousands of Israelis visit Krakow every year, many as part of organised tours, but many more as straightforward vacationers. Do they fear visiting Poland?

This is his report.

Krakow-Poselska

Photo: Greg Spring | www.gregoryspring.com

Traditionally, Israelis have visited Poland, and Krakow especially, in the spirit of remembrance. For decades, Poland was associated in the minds of Israelis with the Holocaust, but that is changing, with more and more flying from Tel Aviv to Krakow expecting a fun and cultural experience, just as they would in Barcelona or London.

Hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews and their descendents live in Israel. Many of them immigrated after World War II and retain traumatic memories of Poland. Many Israelis consider a visit to Auschwitz, at least once, as a must. Thousands of Israeli high school students and military personnel also visit Krakow with organised tours that emphasise remembrance over fun.

In recent years, however, more and more Israelis have discovered Poland as an attractive tourist destination. The fact that Poland does not use the Euro as its currency, the relatively low prices, and significant development over the last 20 years have made it increasingly attractive.

Low-cost airline company Wizz Air noticed this trend, and began operating a route from Katowice to Tel Aviv this year. In 2008, the Polish Ministry of Culture organised a series of events designed to encourage tourism from Israel to Poland, under the name Poland’s Year in Israel, but that has been the only official attempt to build the country’s image as an attractive destination for Israelis.

“I have never been to Krakow, but I’ve heard many good things about it and about Poland. It’s definitely on my list of future destinations,” said Eran Eisenberg, 44, of Rehovot in Israel.

“I always saw Poland as a place where Jews can live quietly nowadays, unlike other places in Europe where Jews are not always welcomed. Earlier, when I thought about Krakow, I imagined a big and vibrant city – similar to Prague, where I have already been. Then, a friend of mine visited Krakow and told me many good things about it, so the image intensified. I will visit it someday with my family, the only question is when. I would also like to see Warsaw, and of course Auschwitz. I think every Jew should visit that place.”

Eran is also a football fan. Wisła Krakow fans will probably be happy to hear that their team is well known outside of Poland, though not always fondly. “I am a fan of Beitar Jerusalem. In July, 2008, Beitar and Wisła Krakow met in the qualifying round of the Champions League. In the first match, in Jerusalem, Beitar won and we had high hopes of going through. Unfortunately, Wisła beat us five nil in the return match. It was one of Beitar’s most painful defeats, and a painful memory of Krakow for me,” said Eran with a smile.

Lior Michel, 39, has visited Krakow twice, and fallen in love with the city. He’s planning a third visit to the city with friends this summer. “I always imagined Poland as a grey, not very attractive country. I was really surprised when I first visited in 2008. I found a beautiful country, and I found Krakow as one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited – even more than Prague or Budapest. The people and the restaurants and night life are simply great,” he said.

There is little evidence that Israelis worry about facing anti-Semitism in Poland. “Not at all” said Lior, “I wasn’t worried before the trip, and now I know that there was no reason to be worried. I visited Zakopane, the Salt Mines in Wieliczka, and on the second trip I brought two of my friends who had a great time as well. On our last trip we bought a lot of Polish souvenirs, so I can definitely say that I contributed my small part to the Polish economy.”

Lior is critical of Israeli school trips to Poland, believing they tend to create the wrong image of Poland among Israel’s young people: “They visit only death camps, and then they come back to Israel with a very negative image of Poland as a place associated mostly with the Holocaust. I think it would be better if they took young students to see the beautiful places that Poland has to offer too, and let them meet their young Polish counterparts.

Romi Gideoni, 26, visited Krakow during a school trip to the death camps. Like Lior, despite the places she was exposed to, she has only good things to say about Krakow: “We visited the market square and the Jewish quarter. I was really surprised, because we imagined something completely different before we arrived to Poland. It’s a beautiful city. I liked the market square very much and people were really nice.”

“Almost everybody speaks English there, so it was very easy for us to communicate with people. We were also very surprised to see that there are quite a lot of Jews living in Poland today, and that they feel very safe there. I believe that it was not my last visit to Poland – I started to learn more about the country when I came back to Israel, and now I am very curious to visit more Polish cities. I am sure that I will do it in the near future.”

28 thoughts on “Israelis Feel Good About Krakow

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm
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    Very well written, optimistic and encouraging article. As a native New Yorker living in Poland for a long period of time, over 10 years, I can attest to not only the Israeli experience, but that of American Jews. All Israelis I have met in Poland, in the cities and even in the countryside where I reside, find Poland to be a beautiful, colorful country and the people very kind and hospitable. An increasing number of Israelis now visit Poland for a ‘normal’ vacation, there is so much to see and do here. I’m very glad there is now more authentic and spontaneous interaction between Israeli-Jewish tourists and the locals, and not some preset artificial meeting as is the case with groups that come to visit Holocaust sites. These meetings with locals are crucial, the interaction and dialogue between Poles (non-Jews) and Jews from around the world, especially from Israel.

    Non-Jewish Poles and Jews, most who have roots in Poland, have so much in common with one another, their intertwined history and culture. Both need one another and this article is a good step forward.

    Thank you for a good piece!

    E. M.

    Village near Tarnów & Nowy Sącz, Poland

    • Avatar
      July 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm
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      And of course in Poland there are also antisemites,….. pedophiles, mass murdrerers, rapists, racists, drug addicts, alcoholics and so on. If you hear about them, do not panic and please do not expect that we get rid of them 100%. Such expectations are irrational and tiresome.

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm
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    “These words essentially painted all non-Jews as anti-Semites. By doing so they insulted the 38 million non-Jewish Poles in this country and potentially compromised the efforts of Jews. In fact, we live in a Poland where many non-Jews work hand in hand with Jews to help restore Jewish memory and re-build Jewish life.”

    I am far more offended by the above statement. At least the way he said it, it is clear that he thinks there may be Jewish Poles – but there may not be except where such people are Polish by blood – in which case calling them Jews is offensive to us Poles.

    “potentially compromised the efforts of Jews” – what efforts are those?

    Poland is for Poles. Israel for Jews. End of story.

    • Avatar
      July 30, 2014 at 5:58 pm
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      BS on many levels.

  • Avatar
    July 24, 2014 at 9:15 pm
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    correction, what I meant was Poles in Poland, non-Poles in non-Poland

    not being non-Polish it is not my place to tell non-Poles where to go

    • Avatar
      July 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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      I will live in Poland if I want and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m a citizen of an EU country and it is my entitlement. If this upsets you, then that’s even better.
      I’ve made it my life’s work to upset small minded bigots.

    • Avatar
      July 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm
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      There are ~20.000.000 Poles outside Poland. And btw. “Poles” are a mixture of many ethnicities. You won’t find many “Polish Poles” in Poland today.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2014 at 12:13 am
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    and what the rabbi said, I’ve been saying for years about Poles too:

    “Those who are not Poles, do not like Poles.”

    just look at some of the commentary on this site.

    • Avatar
      July 25, 2014 at 3:41 am
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      If you think you had a tough time over at the other page, then get ready for some more of the same over here, Max. To think that I was actually starting to feel a bit sorry for you.

      Be seeing you, Max. You’re on your own, matey.

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2014 at 3:47 am
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    why do you think that? do you think the commenters on this page will be even more viciously anti-Polish? why is that? help me out here, buddy…

    in any event, I don’t think I had a “tough time” over there – I thoroughly enjoyed educating you – it is unfortunate that I have nonetheless failed so thoroughly.

    I have no intention of wasting more of my time, feel free to link to the diversity article from here so as to educate more of the nutcases here.

    ps How much does Soros pay for a post? I notice your posts tend to be short so it must be a volume/churn thing.

    • Avatar
      July 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm
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      Troll alert!

      The question is: is he trolling for the fun of it or is he a paid provocateur?

      • Avatar
        July 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm
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        Your comment about my being paid by Soros tends to confirm my suspicion that you’re in someone’s pay, Max, since you appear to judge me by your own standards.

        FYI, nobody is paying me. In the words of the late, great Patrick McGoohan: “I am not a number, I am a free man!”

  • Avatar
    July 27, 2014 at 1:59 am
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    if you want more context to the question “is Poland anti-Semitic” take a look at Rabbi Schudrich’s TEDxWarsaw talk here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxzG1ZPJKy4

    the JTA report about the issue
    http://www.jta.org/2014/06/15/news-opinion/world/krakow-chief-rabbi-condemned-for-saying-all-non-jews-dislike-jews

    BBC Panorama
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/06/poland-and-bbc

    The character of the critics
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2632527/BBC-Panorama-host-gave-Basil-Fawlty-style-Hitler-salute-finger-one-nose-goose-stepping-crew-filmed-anti-Semitism-documentary.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panorama_(TV_series)#Euro_2012:_Stadiums_of_Hate

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=426242407454423&id=235717316506934

    http://www.economist.com/node/11918619

    Over all it seems to me (living in Krakow) that it suits some western European to exaggerate and mis represent Polish reality.

    The BBC never (to my knowledge) disciplined the BBC’s Chris Rogers for “stadiums of Hate”. Giles Coren kept his job at The Times.

    How should it be explained?

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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    Krakow is Jewish

    • Avatar
      July 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm
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      And John Worthington is foolish.

  • Avatar
    July 28, 2014 at 3:37 pm
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    Dear readers of “Der Krakauer Post”! ;-)

    As an openly xenophobic Pole [;-)] I certainly do take care if Israelis, non-Israeli Jews or e.g. Ukrainians feel good about living in be it Krakow or Poland in general.

    And you probably suspect why… Because I don’t want them to feel too well and comfortable in Poland (this game had been played in the past and didn’t end up very well…), while millions of ethnic Poles have left and are still leaving the country.

    And as a matter of fact it has not much to do with the “foreigners”, but more with our own political class and social pressure of regular citizens on them. The weaker, more corrupted and vulnerable to foreign influences the Polish governments are, the more xenophobic Polish society will be.

    • Avatar
      July 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm
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      You started off in German and may as well have finished in German, because your English in atrocious.

      “as an openly xenophobic pole”
      I think what you mean is, as a racist retarded idiot who is still living in the 17th century.

      • Avatar
        July 28, 2014 at 4:25 pm
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        “You started off in German and may as well have finished in German, because your English in atrocious.”

        Buahahaha… Dear Johnie, my English is certainly good enough to call you a “brainless piece of Zionist propaganda”. How about your Polish?

        —–

        “I think what you mean is, as a racist retarded idiot who is still living in the 17th century.”

        Look around, Johnie bhoy… ;-) Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, Egipt, etc. Plus, in the so-called “developed countries” war is ongoing not on a battlefield, but in economic sphere (financial sharks and neo-slavery). Despite technical and educational development, humans have not become less tribal than they/we used to be in prehistoric times…

        “The future belongs to barbarians” once said Fukuyama and unfortunately he seems to be a good prophet.

        • Avatar
          July 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm
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          Voytek, I shall remain in your country as long as I wish. I shall live a better lifestyle and in a better home then you will ever, because I am richer than you. You or any idiots of your ilk will not tell me what to do. If you attack me physically, I will fight you and you will lose. Get it into your silly little fascist nationalist head that I will always beat you.

          • Avatar
            July 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm
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            “I will always beat you.”

            We shall see. But if I were you, I would be more careful with using the words like “always” and “never”. In particular when you speak about the Poles.

            I am leaving the rest of your comment without any response, as it basically doesn’t need any. In a few words you have managed to give a fairly well picture of yourself, so let the readers enjoy. :-)

            PS. Can I ask, of what nationality are you?

          • Avatar
            July 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm
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            Has Max been replaced with a Polish speaker? Your paymasters still trying to drive a wedge between Polish Christians and Polish Jews? And why don’t you spell your name the Polish way if you’re so Polish?

            BTW, I wouldn’t actually go as far as to describe Krakow as a Jewish city, but of course it does have a long Jewish tradition.

            Still, I could be wrong and this may not necessarily be a paid provocateur, but a poster of the same name has been at the KP before, stirring things up. Maybe he is just a provocateur in his spare time?

          • Avatar
            July 29, 2014 at 12:02 am
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            If this is the same Voytek who commented on the thread about the ZDF miniseries (Nasze matki, nasi ojcowie), then he probably isn’t being paid by anyone, but is, as he says himself, just “openly xenophobic”. I suppose that at least he’s honest.

          • Avatar
            July 29, 2014 at 12:25 am
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            Would you like to reply, Voytek? Am I being unfair to you by suggesting that someone might be paying you for your comments?

          • Avatar
            July 29, 2014 at 9:30 am
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            I am Scottish. I am 6′ 6″. I have studied 4 different martial arts. I am beautifully handsome, I am intelligent. I am rich. I am modest. I have a great sense of humour. I am sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and beliefs of others.
            I take it you need to know no more about me Voytek.

            “We shall see. But if I were you, I would be more careful with using the words like “always” and “never”. In particular when you speak about the Poles.”

            In response to that ridiculous comment I leave you with the words of a great Russian general, “A pole is a rat that fights like a mouse”.

  • Avatar
    July 29, 2014 at 10:00 am
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    @X

    “Has Max been replaced with a Polish speaker? Your paymasters still trying to drive a wedge between Polish Christians and Polish Jews? And why don’t you spell your name the Polish way if you’re so Polish?”

    “Still, I could be wrong and this may not necessarily be a paid provocateur, but a poster of the same name has been at the KP before, stirring things up. Maybe he is just a provocateur in his spare time?”

    “If this is the same Voytek who commented on the thread about the ZDF miniseries (Nasze matki, nasi ojcowie), then he probably isn’t being paid by anyone, but is, as he says himself, just “openly xenophobic”. I suppose that at least he’s honest.”

    “Would you like to reply, Voytek? Am I being unfair to you by suggesting that someone might be paying you for your comments?”
    ___

    Jeeez, relax “X”. I am going to reply to you, but at time when I am well awake (and not in the middle of the night)… ;-)

    (1) The same as anyone else here, I use a nickname that I want and/or see fit, and you shouldn’t draw too serious conclusions from that.

    (2) Yes, I am the same Voytek, who used to be quite active with posting comments re “Unsere Muetter, unsere Vaetter” series. I don’t visit KP too often at the moment, so came across this article only recently.

    (3) No, I am not a paid provocateur, but maybe I should ride that wave and get some part-time job, as I believe I am quite good at it. ;-)

    I don’t know if you’re able to believe it (not that I care too much anyway, if you didn’t), but I am a born & bred POLISH PATRIOT.

    (4) And last but not least, if you or whoever else wants to be treated seriously in this discussion, get your facts straight.

    Jews started making permanent settlements in the Kingdom of Poland in the Middle Ages (12-14th century) – not only in the city of Krakow and the town of Kazimierz (a separate town from Krakow until early 19th century) – because Polish Kings and lords ALLOWED them to do so. Most of those Jews, who were settling down in Poland at the time, had been expelled from German lands (Holy Roman Empire) and Bohemia after the Crusades.

    • Avatar
      July 29, 2014 at 10:46 am
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      Facts? What facts are you talking about, Voytek? I haven’t presented any so-called ‘facts’ for you to be accusing me of not getting them straight. All I’ve done is ask you about yourself.

      And (to J. Worthington) – do you really think it’s such a fantastic idea to go around quoting that kind of stuff about rats and mice on a Polish website? About as wise as starting a discussion about the Campbells and MacDonalds at the Loch Ness Courier.

      • Avatar
        July 29, 2014 at 11:40 am
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        “I haven’t presented any so-called ‘facts’ for you to be accusing me of not getting them straight. All I’ve done is ask you about yourself.”

        You’re right. I was in a bit of hurry while writing that comment, apologies for that.

        But if your knowledge on “Jewish Krakow” somehow contradicts with the info I posted, feel free to share anyway.

        • Avatar
          July 29, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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          Actually, I’m not really sure I want to take sides here. I’ll leave you guys to slug it out. I was going to say you know the rules and keep it clean, but it looks as if it’s too late for that.

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