Finland pro Israel rally 311.
(photo credit: Martti Kortelainen)
Sacha Stawski, the organizer of the 2nd German-Israel Congress, which bills
itself as the biggest pro-Israel event in Europe, is a hard man to get a hold of
Less than a week before the gathering is set to start this
Sunday in Frankfurt, the businessman-cum-event coordinator was still busy tying
up loose ends.
“There are flights here, hotels there, some 60 exhibitors
asking questions about this table or that,” he said over the phone from
“I totally underestimated how much work it would
Stawski said between 3,000 to 4,000 members of the Jewish community,
pro-Israel Christians and others hailing from across Germany and Europe would
take part in the two-day gathering.
“The first German-Israel Congress
last year had about 1,100 people in attendance,” he said. “At that point we were
supported by 80 organizations, but this year we have 200.”
two main reasons for the gathering’s doubling in size from last
First, he said organizers had been successful in getting more
people and groups on board. The event is fully financed by a coalition of
advocacy groups, including the likes of The Israel Project, private donors like
German- Jewish businessman Yosef Buchman and corporate sponsors.
he argued this year’s gathering is being held at a time of great urgency in the
“Support for Israel in [the] German public is dwindling,
while demands for recognizing the Palestinian unilateral declaration of
independence are growing,” he explained.
“Then there’s the Arab Spring
that has taken away Israel’s allies in the region and then, of course, the
threat of Iran.”
Of course, holding a large Jewish conference on German
soil comes with some historical baggage. After all, the leaders of this country
planned and implemented the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust. But
Stawski, who was born in Germany to a Jewish family, said the gathering’s aim
was not to make Germans feel bad about the past but to have them help contribute
to making a better Israel, at peace with its neighbors.
“Germany is the
only country in Europe that Israel is part of its rasion d’etre,” said
“Because of Germany’s history, that is why this is exactly where
this conference needs to take place. We’re trying to remind the German public
and government not of guilt, but of responsibly.”
He said he would find
it hard to believe this year’s conference would go ahead without being
disrupted, but in a sign of the times protesters are less likely to be
neo-Nazis, but rather pro- Palestinian Jewish groups.
“Last year we were
disrupted by Jews for Justice,” he said.
“They stood outside with fliers
Speakers at the event this year include the likes of
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, but
organizers have intentionally left the itinerary open to change, given the speed
with which things can change in a volatile place like the Middle
“It is difficult to plan a conference like this. That’s why we
intentionally stuck to the slogan ‘peace through security, security through
peace,’” he said. “All we knew is that no time is a hot time to do this