The Miracle of Friendship

“I see it as a personal duty to ensure that Germany defends Israel’s existence and security,” says Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. German-Israeli friendship is “wonderful in the truest sense of the word.” It will continue to thrive on “the interaction between Germans and Israelis in awareness of the horrors of the past and with the desire to build a bright future for the generations to come”…

(c) AA

(c) AA

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, who later became the first Prime Minister of Israel, read out the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv Museum. Following the Shoah, the Germans’ terrible crime against humanity, the dream of a Jewish state finally came true.
Seventy years later, the “Jewish Voice from Germany” has invited the German Foreign Minister to mark this anniversary by writing a message for a special edition. This gesture alone shows the long road that Germany and Israel have travelled together over the past 70 years.
Germany and Israel are now united by a true friendship, and I would like to thank the countless people in both countries who have nurtured it. Based on forgiveness, this friendship is a precious gift for us Germans.
The unbearable crime of the Shoah that was committed by Germans against Jews does not only create a profound historic responsibility for our country. It also forms a crucial motivation for my own political work. In my inaugural speech as Foreign Minister, I said: “I went into politics because of Auschwitz.”
I see it as a personal duty to ensure that Germany defends Israel’s existence and security and takes a firm stance against all forms of anti-Semitism and racism, both in Germany itself and worldwide. We cannot and must not lower our standards in any way here, and I will do my utmost to guarantee this.
The fact that Germany is now once again home to a vibrant Jewish community is a reason for us Germans to rejoice and be grateful.
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the laying of a foundation stone for a new Jewish education centre in the heart of Berlin.
But I also want to state clearly that it is unacceptable and a cause of shame for our country that Jewish schools and institutions in Germany still need police protection, that young men are beaten up on the streets in broad daylight simply because they are wearing a kippah, and that prizes are awarded for anti-Semitic provocations.
There is no room in Germany for antiSemitism and we firmly reject it in any form. Our responsibility to protect Jewish life will never end. That is another reason why the decision to create the position of a Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against anti-Semitism was right and indeed overdue. This office amalgamates the Federal Government’s measures, serves as a point of contact for Jewish groups, and identifies and points out shortcomings in dealing with anti-Semitism.
During my first visit to Israel as Foreign Minister in March, I was particularly moved by my meeting with Holocaust survivors, who invited me to celebrate Passover with them at the Amcha Centre in Jerusalem. These people put into practice what Amos Oz once expressed as follows: “The past is always present and will always remain present, but we must remember that the past belongs to us – we do not belong to the past.”
In this spirit, we must keep memory alive. We must never forget what happened to the victims of the Holocaust. In awareness of the past and the responsibility arising from it, we can then ask ourselves the following questions, which are important to both our societies now and in the future.
How should we deal with populism and division in societies?
How do we ensure cohesion?
What risks and opportunities arise from the spread of digital technology?
How do we maintain scope for open societies in view of hostility from inside
and outside?
These are all topics where we want to learn from one another and work together to find solutions.
When a state celebrates its 70th birthday, it can still be considered young. However, the past 70 years were by no means easy for Israel – the young state had a difficult youth and had to learn to stand on its own feet very quickly. My main hope for Israel, therefore, is that the next 70 years will be peaceful for the country in both its domestic and foreign relations.
That was always David Ben-Gurion’s dream. And he also said that “in Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” Some say that peace in the Middle East would be a miracle. Then I must be a realist as defined by David Ben- Gurion, for I believe in a just peace, in which Israel’s existence and security are guaranteed and Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace in two states.
On the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel, we want to make the friendship between Israel and Germany even closer and to show people in our two countries just how wide ranging and diverse our ties are. That is why we are supporting a large number of events in Israel and Germany at which the great range of ties that already unite us in the spheres of politics, the arts, culture, academia and business will become even closer. After all, our friendship, which is wonderful in the truest sense of the word, thrives on the interaction between Germans and Israelis in awareness of the horrors of the past and with the desire to build a bright future for the generations to come.
The friendship between Germany and Israel shows that miracles are possible in the course of history. Let us keep working together on this miracle! ■

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