Yad Vashem guide fired for politics

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yad Vashem fired a freelance guide who reportedly injected politics into his work.

Itamar Shapira, 29, was dismissed as a guide for the Jerusalem center‘s International School for Holocaust Studies before Passover, but the controversy was first reported Thursday by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. He had worked as a freelancer at the school for about two years, Yad Vashem said.

Yad Vashem said it fired Shapira after receiving complaints about his guiding methods, which he refused to change. Ha’aretz reported that a yeshiva high school teacher from Efrat complained that Shapira spoke to visitors about the 1948 massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin, which today is part of Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood. 

Yad Vashem had never fired a guide over political differences, a museum official told Ha’aretz. The institution’s position is that the Holocaust cannot be compared to any other event, allowing visitors to draw their own political conclusions.

"The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things," Shapira told Ha’aretz.

In an e-mail statement to JTA, Yad Vashem said "The history of the State of Israel is not part of our activities, and discussions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are not appropriate during an educational guiding of the Museum at Yad Vashem. It is unacceptable that a Yad Vashem guide would use his position to try to further his own political agenda.

"It is important to note that Yad Vashem employs staff and volunteers from the entire Israeli political and social spectrum, who separate their own personal views from their professional activities at Yad Vashem."

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