PRESIDENT REUVEN Rivlin meets on Monday with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili..
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin on Monday welcomed President Giorgi Margvelashvilli of Georgia, who is in Israel on state visit, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who is in Israel on a working visit.
Both Rivlin and the Georgian president noted that Georgia is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
Georgia has existed for some 3,000 years said Margvelashvilli, and Jews who came there after the destruction of the First Temple have lived there for 2,600 years.
Margvelashvilli, who is in Israel for the first time, said it is an emotional experience for him and that he is very excited to be in a country that has been built on tradition and which despite its long history is so contemporary. It had long been his dream to come to Israel, he said, adding that Israel and Georgia are small states with long histories living in complicated neighborhoods.
Margvelashvilli expressed confidence that both countries can overcome their difficulties and can build peace and security in their respective regions. He assured Rivlin that Georgia and its people are friends of Israel’s. As for its relations with Israel, he said that Georgia wants to enhance its cooperation in start-ups, joint business ventures, real estate, agricultural tourism, and security.
In her meeting with Rivlin, Grybauskaite spoke movingly of her many Jewish friends and how shocked she had been as a student in St. Petersburg to see the city emptied of its Jews when they were permitted to leave for Israel.
In welcoming Margvelashvilli, Rivlin said that Georgia, like Israel, is a country in which religious tolerance and mutual respect are part of the culture. He also emphasized that Georgia has an important role in speaking out against fundamentalism and the forces of hatred which are currently permeating the region. He thanked the Georgian government for “its clear condemnation of the terrorist attacks against Israelis,” which he characterized as “acts of pure hatred.”
In his discussion with Grybauskaite who is her country’s first female president and the first president of Lithuania to serve two consecutive terms, Rivlin reviewed the overall situation in the Middle East with particular focus on the distortions and lies that are being disseminated with regard to Israel’s intentions on the Temple Mount. Grybauskaite’s main purpose in coming to Israel on her first visit was to participate in the Lithuanian Global Economic Forum, which is being held in Israel for the first time.
But she said that she is also in Israel “to acknowledge our history.” Though Vilnius was known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, she was well aware that there were some very shameful episodes in Lithuania’s treatment of its Jews. She had first discovered this, she said, when she toured the Holocaust Museum in Washington and came across the section devoted to Lithuania. What she saw was entirely new to her and shocked her.
Today, she said, Lithuanians have a more positive attitude toward Israel. As a member of the United Nations Security Council, Lithuania frequently defends Israel, a fact for which Rivlin voiced appreciation. She said that it had been upsetting to see the breakdown in the peace talks with the Palestinians.
Rivlin responded by complaining about the ongoing incitement on the part of the Palestinians. “Neighbors should not increase incitement at a time when we should have confidence-building measures,” he said, adding that he is personally trying to create bridges of understanding.
He stressed that it is important that the Palestinians realize that Israel is here to stay.