Peres gets jet escort into Germany

Israeli flags line Berlin streets as president, Holocaust survivors arrive for 3-day state visit.

January 26, 2010 02:46
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres passes an honor guard at Te

peres berlin 248. (photo credit: GPO)


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President Shimon Peres arrived in Berlin on Monday for a three-day state visit to Germany.

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Three German Air Force Phantom jets escorted the president's plane into the airport. Peres entered the cockpit and spoke to the German pilots by radio. The pilots welcomed Peres and his entourage to their country and the president thanked them and told them that he was familiar with their aircraft, as the IAF had also had some (until 2004).

His visit to Germany was a mixture of difficult memories from the past and great hope for the future, Peres said.

"I congratulate the strong ties between Israel and Germany and our two armies, and send you the warm regards of the Israel Defense Forces," he told the pilots.

Peres was joined on the special El Al flight by a group of Holocaust survivors from Germany, a delegation of youth leaders selected by the Ministry of Education and a contingent of the Israeli press. MK Ya'acov Ederi of Kadima is representing the Knesset in the state visit.

Peres was met at the Berlin military base by the visit organizers and a platoon of German soldiers in dress uniform, who honored him with an 18-gun salvo.

The temperature was minus 9ºC and the president's staff was frantically looking for someone to provide Peres with a warm hat before exiting the aircraft.

The streets of Berlin were covered with snow, and Israeli flags accompanied the German and European Union ones on flag posts along the way from the airport to the city.

Traffic in the city came to a near standstill because of the president's convoy. Security around his hotel was very tight.

On Monday evening, Peres was to speak at an event organized by the Jewish community.

On Tuesday, he will be formally welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler. He is scheduled to participate in a remembrance ceremony at the Holocaust memorial located on the Grunewald train station's platform 17, from where thousands of Berlin Jews were sent to the their deaths. Koehler and a delegation of Israeli survivors and students will attend the ceremony.

Later that afternoon, Peres will meet with Merkel.

The two presidents will also attend a meeting with 100 Israeli and German youths, to discuss the future relationship between the two countries.

The main purpose of the visit is a speech that Peres will deliver in Hebrew at the Bundestag on Wednesday. January 27 is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army, and since 2005 it has been designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Peres's speech will be held during a special session of the parliament and will be attended by Merkel, Koehler, Holocaust survivors, Jewish community leaders and top German dignitaries.

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