An unlikely partnership is being formed between an Israeli city associated with Yemenites and a southern German city associated with the Holocaust, and if everything goes ahead as planned, Rosh Ha'ayin and Dachau will soon officially become sister cities.
The initiative was that of Dachau Mayor Peter BÃ¼rgel, who wanted to make his city a center for learning and remembrance for young people from around the world, and sought to forge a partnership with an Israeli city to promote the concept. However, the only Israeli mayor willing to consider such a pact was Moshe Sinai of Rosh Ha'ayin, not deterred by the fact that the Bavarian city hosted a Nazi concentration camp, in which some 43,000 people, many of them Jews, were murdered.
"Dachau is a place that is associated with very difficult memoriesâ€¦ not only for the Holocaust survivors and their families, but for almost all Israelis. Dachau is associated with the name of a concentration camp, with loss, grief and death," Sinai said in an interview with German television channel ARD on Tuesday.
In July, BÃ¼rgel hosted Sinai for a tour of the city and the adjacent concentration camp memorial, and the Dachau mayor is due in Rosh Ha'ayin at the end of October to work out the details of the planned cultural, educational and economical exchange.
"If one pauses to think about it for a moment, one will realize that in Dachau, too, live many good people who want to be in contact with Israel, which they see as important, and it is not important where they live," Sinai said in the interview. "One shouldn't stick to the past," said Sinai, but "light new lights and open new windows to opportunity."
Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday, BÃ¼rgel said he understood the difficulties Dachau's Nazi past aroused in Israelis, but remained hopeful the public would support the partnership.
Also on Wednesday, prominent Israeli economist and Dachau survivor Moshe Sanbar asserted on Army Radio that the initiative had been suggested "by a completely insensitive person" who would not allow survivors "to die in peace."
Responding to the suggestion that a pact between the two cities would further encourage understanding and compassion between Israel and Germany, Sanbar was adamant that "those who were there will never forget" and see Dachau in any other light, while "the next generations do not have to keep alive the memory of Dachau in particular."
Following the controversy, Union of Local Authorities chairman Shlomo Buhbut, who had initially supported the impending pact, said on Wednesday that the parties should reconsider the deal.
Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report.