By Eli Ashkenazi
About 40 percent of all Israelis believe the Holocaust could happen again, and 43 percent are reportedly concerned the State of Israel is in danger of being destroyed, according to a poll conducted by Tel-Hai Academic College.
The poll was conducted by faculty members in the psychology department at the college, located in the Upper Galilee.
Seventeen percent of respondents said the chance of a second Holocaust was very high; 23 percent said there was a moderate risk it could occur; while nearly 59 percent reportedly thought the risk was low.
The findings reflect the deep impact of the Holocaust on succeeding generations in Israel, including those born in Israel after World War II, according to Prof. Shaul Kimhi, the chair of Tel-Hai's psychology department and one of the faculty members involved in the study.
"It turns out that more than a third of Israelis believe that the Holocaust was not a one-time occurrence and could happen again," Kimhi said.
"This substantial proportion [of the population] is an indication of Holocaust fears instilled in us from childhood, which are not necessarily rational, but they're part of Jewish-Israeli culture," Kimhi noted. According to Kimhi, these fears are a reflection of deep emotional and cultural sentiment that is not necessarily altered by changes in Israel's security situation or diplomatic circumstances.
The poll surveyed adults between 18 and 85, as well as 12th-grade high school students who had taken school trips to Holocaust sites in Poland. When respondents were asked to what extent they felt their lives and the lives of their family members were in danger, 55 percent rated the risk as low or non-existent. About 12 percent said they thought they were at great risk, and 31 percent rated the risk as moderate.
The opinion polling of the 12th-grade respondents was completed in stages, and included a questionnaire distributed to students before their trips to Poland, and again after their return to Israel. The results show that the visit to Poland actually improved the students' sense of Israel's strength. Before the journey, 43 percent of the 130 students surveyed said they did not believe Israel was in danger of extinction. That figure declined to 37 percent after the trip.
"Exposing young people to the horrors that took place during the Holocaust and then returning to Israel strengthens the sense among young people that they have a strong country that can face the lurking dangers," Kimhi said.
When it comes to the public at large, however, Kimhi said the threats that Israel faces - including threats from Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip - indirectly reinforce a sense of persecution and preserve the collective trauma of the Holocaust.