President Reuven Rivlin .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
When President Reuven Rivlin departs for Ukraine on Monday evening, his visit will be both personal and official in nature.
Although he is primarily going to Ukraine to participate in the 75th commemoration of the massacre at Babi Yar by the Nazis and their Ukrainian henchmen, he will also visit the sites of Odessa’s Jewish heritage, including the house of his ideological mentor, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, as well as the homes of Prof. Joseph Klausner and Chaim Nachman Bialik.
He will later speak at the inauguration of the World ORT School in Odessa, to be named after Jabotinsky, and will officially unveil the sign bearing the school’s name, after which students will present readings of Jabotinsky’s writings in Hebrew and Ukrainian. Rivlin will also participate in a conference on the life and work of Jabotinsky at the Bristol Hotel in Odessa and will speak at the opening of a Jabotinsky exhibition at the Odessa Literary Museum.
Later in Kiev, he will meet with Jewish community leaders.
Among the various officials with whom Rivlin will meet are President Petro Poroshenko, whom he hosted when the latter paid a state visit to Israel in December 2015, and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who is Jewish.
Rivlin is scheduled to address the Ukrainian Parliament, in addition to addressing an international group of participants at Babi Yaar that will include World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who will head a 100-member delegation of the WJC. Lauder will also be among the speakers at the ceremony, which will include dignitaries such as German President Joachim Gauck.
The WJC has a number of events scheduled in relation to the commemoration of the Babi Yar massacre, in which more than a 100,000 people – Jews, Roma, and political prisoners alike – were killed by Nazi forces and their collaborators.
Of the dead, more than 33,000 were Jews.
Prior to leaving for Ukraine, Rivlin will participate in an international conference of education ministers of the OECD, which is being held in Israel for the first time.
Late on Sunday afternoon, Rivlin joined members of the Oketz canine special forces unit of the IDF, in which dogs are trained to attack kidnappers and terrorists, to sniff for explosives and armaments and to find people in the debris of collapsed buildings, in raising a New Year toast to the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Rivlin recommended to all Israelis that they should not hesitate in placing their confidence in the whole network of the Israel Defense Forces and security establishment.
Earlier in the day, as proof of the diversity of presidential activities, Rivlin conducted a Q&A in Hebrew and English on Twitter and video.
Knowing that the president is a vegetarian, someone asked what he ate on Rosh Hashana.
Rivlin replied that he grew up in an Ashkenazi home with gefilte fish. Now, with nine grandchildren of mixed Moroccan, Yemenite, Iraqi and Ashkenazi parentage, “we have all the tastes of the Jewish people,” he said.
When asked about whether he would return to political life at the conclusion of his seven-year term, Rivlin replied that he will be 82 by then, and that the world belongs to the young.