Polish children holding Israeli and Polish flags in Plonsk, the birthtown of David Ben-Gurion .
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELINGER)
Several hundred residents of the birthplace of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, marched through the small Polish town of Plonsk to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
Locals, including children and teenagers, participated in the procession on Sunday and the official ceremony that followed. The procession included a marching band and participants waved Polish and Israeli flags.
The event, which was organized by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), the March of the Living, and the municipality of Plonsk, was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari and was led by Mayor of Plonsk Andrzej Pietrasik.
The marchers passed several of the way stations of Ben-Gurion’s early life. These include a square named after him, where the house he was born in 1886 was located; and his uncle’s home, in which he lived for most of his childhood before immigrating to the Land of Israel in 1906.
During the ceremony, the youngsters donned traditional costumes and danced Israeli folk dancing dances to music, including Israeli tunes like “Hava Nagila.” Speeches were delivered by local and Israeli dignitaries, including Schudrich, Azari, Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, March of the Living deputy chairman Aharon Tamir and the town’s priest, Rev. Edmond Makovsky.
Schudrich said: “Today, in this moving ceremony in Plonsk, we have witnessed the true Poland,” referencing the strained ties between Israel and Poland over Warsaw’s recent controversial law prohibiting placing blame on the country for the Holocaust
“A quiet and dignified procession, its face turned toward peace and brotherhood, with no counter demonstrations and without strain and tension,” he said. “It is not at all clear that such an event could have taken place today in Paris, Stockholm or London.”
“What we have seen in this ceremony today is the Poland with whom we need to work together and to nurture the relationship,” Schudrich said. “It is true that there are some problems, but there are also solutions – today’s event is part of the solution.”
Azari said: “I think it’s very natural to have a celebration of the 70th anniversary in the town where Ben-Gurion was born. I think the fact that we did it together with the Polish inhabitants of this town was very nice and it’s a nice start to the celebrations.”
Chesler said: “This was really a very joyful day when all the city came with the mayor, with the Israeli ambassador, with the chief rabbi, with the chief priest, with the president of the March of the Living, and Limmud FSU participants... We were in Auschwitz, where there was the destruction, and here is where the hope is.”