German Chancellor’s Historic Israel Visit

March 19, 2008

Merkel in the Knesset 

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, just returned from a historic visit in the Holy Land. Israel changed one of its laws to allow her to become the first foreign politician who is not a head of state to address the Knesset. Although she held her speech in German, she opened and closed her remarks in Hebrew: 

Frau Präsidentin, Ani moda lachem sh’nitan li ledaber elechem kan b’bayit mechubad zeh. Zeh kavod gadol bavuri. (Mrs. President, I am grateful that I am allowed to address you in this honorable house. This is a great honor for me.)       

Mazal tov lechagigot shishim shana lemedinat Israel. Shalom. (Congratulations to the sixtieth anniversary of the state of Israel. Shalom.) 

A German politician in Israel obviously provokes controversy, however Israel-friendly she is. Naturally, some Knesset members boycotted Merkel’s speech. Yeshiva World reports: 

A number of elected officials decided to boycott the address, objecting to the chancellor being permitted to address the plenum in German. MKs (Labor) Shelly Yacimovitz, a daughter of Holocaust survivors opted not to remain as was the case with MK (National Union-NRP) Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, Yisrael Katz (Likud), Limor Livnat (Likud), Uri Ariel (National Union-NRP), Yaakov Cohen (UTJ). MK (National Union) Prof. Aryeh Eldad was among the more outspoken opponents of permitting the chancellor to address the Knesset in German. Eldad explained that the Knesset law is quite explicit, stating only a head of state is permitted to address in the Knesset in a foreign tongue, but in this case, a decision was made to ignore this reality to permit her to address the Knesset in German. Eldad explained earlier this week that this is the crux of his protest, that he did not see it fitting to make an exception in this case. Eldad also commented that he dreads the day when the sound of the German language is no longer a source of discomfort to members of Knesset.         

However, it is maybe noteworthy that over 1,000 guest listened to her speech in the Knesset, among them Holocaust survivors. She received standing ovations, especially for her efforts to speak Hebrew.

One comment

  1. I think her entire visit, including the meet-up of both, the German and Israeli cabinets, were symbolically even more important than politically. still, the comments threads on websites of German newspapers covering the visit are abuzz with the ever-persistent ignorami that believe Germany’s being ripped off by Israel / Jews / Zionists – those posters appear to be mostly from the left corner of the political sphere. I think it is very important for the current German government to address antisemitism from the political left just as much as it addresses antisemitism from the political right – no matter how many neo-socialists that’ll make fuming.

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