Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

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More on Germans and Israel

May 9, 2008

image courtesy of DPA

Jews and non-Jews celebrated Israel’s sixtieth birthday all over Germany, as seen in the photo above from Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz. Yet, the occasion naturally called not only for celebrations, but for political commentary as well. German papers were full of historical reviews and analysis. Die Welt, a conservative paper published by the traditionally pro-Israel Axel Springer Verlag, wrote that most Germans were not too interested in Israel’s creation 60 years ago. Apparently, only German politicians really cared.

For them it was an epic event, and soon after the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 23, 1949, there was contact between leading figures in both countries, at first mainly in the area of science. However, the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, as well as the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, wanted more.

But in the Holy Land a majority of people then were not in favor of direct talks with, let alone financial support from, the ‘country of the perpetrators.’ However, in a memorable debate, Ben-Gurion convinced the majority of parliamentarians that it was time to have some sort of relations with the new, democratic Germany.

In the Luxembourg Agreements signed on Sept. 10, 1952, Germany promised to give Israel 3 billion German marks, on top of compensation payments to individuals. The money was meant to be used to help the integration of former European Jews. The ice was broken, but it still took a long time until the two countries established diplomatic relations.

Today, Germany is Israel’s second-most important ally after the US. Luckily, the main reason for that is not the ever-present history of the two countries, but the common belief in the fundamental values of our existence.

Read more about the German press on Israel here.

German-Jewish journalist Henryk Broder wrote several pieces on the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day. I found only one translated into English: “The Poisoned Congratulations of German Know-It-Alls.” Last but not least, let it be known that the Jewish elementary school in Cologne posted three videos of its Israel Independence Day celebration on YouTube. Part 1 and part 2 are noisy and hardly bearable 10-minute pieces showing an introductory presentation by the teachers followed by the kids singing Israeli songs and waving flags. Part 3 is a mute slide show featuring nice photos of the presentation and the subsequent party in the school’s backyard. Enjoy!

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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.