Polish President Andrzej Duda and Nadav Peres, grandson of Shimon Peres.
(photo credit: PERES CENTER FOR PEACE)
Both Israel and Poland are interested in enhancing relations at all levels and President Reuven Rivlin and Polish President Andrzej Duda each expressed this ambition at a welcome reception that Rivlin hosted for Duda on Tuesday.
In greeting Duda, Rivlin underscored the value that Israel places on its relations with Poland and the European Union and noted that the first country that he visited as president was Poland.
Meetings with Poland’s leadership are always relevant, said Rivlin.
He also mentioned that Duda was in Israel for the second time in a four months period, having previously come to attend the funeral of Israel’s ninth president Shimon Peres, which was a greatly appreciated gesture.
The reference to Peres gave Duda the opportunity to expand on his remarks about what Jews had contributed to Poland’s culture and economy over the centuries, and to the defense of Poland against the Nazis in a more contemporary era.
He hailed Peres as a native son of the Second Polish Republic and spoke of the contribution of Polish Jews to the creation and development of the State of Israel.
In his praise of Jews, Duda was doing more than merely paying lip service.
His wife, Agata Kornhauser Duda, is of Jewish background. Her paternal grandfather Jakub Kornhauser was Jewish and her father Julian Kornhauser, a professor at Krakow’s Jagellonian University and a well-known writer, translator and literary critic describes himself as a Polish Jew.
Duda’s entourage includes Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich as well as a delegation of young entrepreneurs who want to interact with their Israeli peers.
This will be helpful not only to political relations between the two countries, but also to economic relations, said Duda.
Each president spoke of the historic thousand-year symbiosis between Poles and Jews, and Rivlin made the point that relations between the two countries, though sometimes stained with blood in the past are today very close.
The two presidents agreed that in order to ensure that there is continuity to the excellent relations that currently exist between their two countries, young Israelis must visit Poland to learn to understand the people and the culture and young Poles must come to Israel for the same purpose.
When Rivlin went to Poland it was attend the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. When Duda, after his meeting with Rivlin went to Yad Vashem, he saw evidence of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews on Polish soil.
Later in the day, at his own request, Duda visited Peres’s tomb on Mount Herzl and placed flowers on it. He was accompanied by Peres’s grandson Nadav Peres.