Germany paves the way for European unity

Peres praises Chancellor Angela Merkel in an address on German Unity Day; president delivers 3 speeches from 3 different cities in 1 day.

Peres at Tuba Zangria 311 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Peres at Tuba Zangria 311
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
It is not unusual for a head of state to make more than one speech in a day, but it is unusual for each speech to be delivered in a different city. On Monday of this week, President Shimon Peres delivered a speech at his residence in Jerusalem to mark the inauguration of a program for future scientists and inventors that he had initiated; in the late afternoon he traveled to Tuba Zanghariya in the Galilee, where he spoke out strongly against the torching and desecration of the mosque by suspected Jewish terrorists; and in the evening he was the guest of honor at the German Unity Day celebrations at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.
German Unity Day receptions are usually held at the residence of the ambassador in Herzliya Pituah, but the residence is currently undergoing renovations, so a different venue had to be found.
Speaking in three different cities in one day is not a rarity for Peres, who in his frequent travels abroad has not only delivered addresses in different cities but in different countries on the same date. Ignoring a speech prepared for him by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and speaking extemporaneously, Peres amazed his admiring audience with his reminiscences of German leaders from Konrad Adenauer onwards. He had known them all.
He began by talking about his recent visit to Yalta in Ukraine where in February 1945, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to decide on how to divide Europe. All three were powerful forces but nothing remains of the decisions they made at that time, noted Peres, attributing this to a trick of history and expressing the hope that history would play yet another trick and in the face of all odds, there would be peace between Israel, her neighbors and the entire Middle East. For him Germany was a paradigm of how attitudes and situations can change.
Peres described German Chancellor Angela Merkel as “the true antithesis of Nazism” who has both the wisdom of the heart and the wisdom of the mind. Reaching further back into history, Peres said that Germany was lucky to have a leader like Konrad Adenauer, who in the aftermath of the Second World War re-established an alliance with the West and embarked on a relationship with Israel. Then there was Willie Brandt who, according to Peres, “had a great love for Israel and the Jewish people” and who improved Germany’s relations with the East.
Later there was Helmut Kohl, known as the chancellor of German reunification, who completed what Adenauer and Brandt had begun by forging excellent relations with Russia, America and Israel. “He was a great leader” said Peres, recalling how for many years Germany had been a target for negative feelings even among its own younger generation. The world and Jews in particular wondered how such a cultured people had come to build an industry of death.
Yet the new united Germany had helped other European countries to overcome dictatorships and German unity, said Peres, had rescued the European Union. German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis who had served in Israel as first secretary at the German Embassy at the time of German reunification 21 years ago after the destruction of the Berlin Wall, recalled that there had been some anxiety in Israel as to whether unification would affect German Foreign Policy. The presence of the president of Israel at a reception marking German Unity Day was indicative of the special relationship between Germany and the State of Israel, he said, adding that Germany had faced up to the horrors and implications of the Holocaust and had established a relationship of integrity and trust with Israel that is expressed on many levels, not the least of which is 9,000 annual student exchanges between the two countries and 100 twinnings of German and Israeli cities and towns. Even the string quartet that played the anthems of both countries was comprised of two German and two Israeli musicians who belong to the Young Philharmonic Orchestra Jerusalem-Weimar which plays together in both countries. Reaffirming Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security, Michaelis said: “Israel’s security is one of the fundamental principles guiding the Federal Republic of Germany.” He reiterated Germany’s belief that peace can come about only through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and again emphasized that Israel must be able to live in a politically secure environment.
■ THE 10TH Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days in memory of the kidnapped and murdered American Jewish journalist and musician of Israeli parentage have already begun and will continue throughout October in a global network of concerts. The purpose of the concerts is to commemorate the values that were important to Daniel Pearl and to unite people through words and music to promote tolerance, friendship and the oneness of humanity. This year there will be more than 1,400 performances in 53 countries including Israel where the US Embassy will host a concert at the YMCA Auditorium on Jerusalem’s King David Street on Tuesday, October 11. The program will feature the best of American jazz performed by virtuoso Israeli musicians and singers Elisheva Bat-Israel, Haya Samir, Roy Yang, Shevakhia Bat-Israel and Gideon Yuval. Admission is free but prior reservations are required.
Anyone wishing to attend the concert should e-mail no later than October 10, with “Daniel Pearl” in the subject line and including the number of tickets requested and the name and phone number of the sender. Confirmation of the e-mail request should be printed out and presented at the entrance to the YMCA Auditorium.
■ FOREIGN MINISTER Avigdor Lieberman was in Ukraine this week to participate in the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Babi Yar massacre and to join in the laying of the cornerstone for the construction of the Babi Yar Museum in Kiev. Ironically, the major Israeli commemoration of the mass massacre at Babi Yar will take place on October 6, the Gregorian calendar 38th anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. President Peres will be the keynote speaker at the Jerusalem Theater prior to a memorial concert to be attended by Holocaust survivors, members of Knesset and immigrants from Ukraine.
■ ANOTHER EVENT on Thursday, October 6, will be the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature in which Israel’s own Amos Oz is yet again a leading contender.
Oz’s name comes up year after year, and though he has won many other prizes, the Nobel continues to elude him.
■ AND ON the same date it’s nostalgia time in Tel Aviv.
Following the television series “Dictates of Fashion” that was recently screened on Channel One comes a new-old exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum dedicated to the ATA Textile Company. Founded in 1934 by Czech socialist immigrant Erich Mollar, who based his enterprise on socialist principles, ATA produced wonderfully sturdy fabrics that were used not only by residents of kibbutzim and moshavim, but later also by the IDF. ATA, which is an acronym for Arigei Totzeret Artzeinu (woven fabrics made in our land), began to produce basic clothing in addition to textiles, and several of Israel’s leading fashion designers had their career boost at ATA.
Willowy-figured actress Keren Mor, who was the narrator of Israel’s fashion history and dressed the parts as she went along, included ATA in her narrative. The exhibition will be on view for six months.
Edwin, the Second Viscount Samuel, an old friend of Moller’s and a director of his company, refers to Moller in his book A Lifetime in Jerusalem. ATA was a household word in Israel for half a century before it closed in 1985, unable to compete in a rapidly changing world.
■ CYPRUS WAS one of several countries that last December sent equipment and firefighting crews to fight the blaze in the Carmel Forest, dispatching a helicopter and a plane to assist in the massive effort to put out the fires. On Tuesday of last week, ambassador of Cyprus Dimitris Hatziargrou planted the first tree in the recovering Carmel forest – a new sapling just before the New Year. This is the beginning of the planting season and Hatziargrou was invited by the Jewish National Fund to put down roots in Haifa. Hatziargrou said that the relationship between Israel and Cyprus is like flower that he hopes will keep developing in the years ahead. He also admitted that he had been amazed to learn of the volume of Israel’s agricultural exports given that Israel is such a small, dry country.
Reciprocity is a salient factor in the Israel-Cyprus relationship.
Just as Cyprus was quick to respond to the Israel emergency, so Israel instantly came to assist Cyprus in coping with the massive explosion at a naval base when stored gunpowder was detonated by a brush fire.
■ IT’S AN interesting curiosity that US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who was sent to Israel by President Barack Obama who is a Democrat, gave his first major in-depth interview to the print media to a newspaper owned by ardent Republican supporter Sheldon Adelson. Shapiro and his wife Julie Fisher were interviewed at their US residence by Naama Lansky for a five-page story that appeared in the Rosh Hashana edition of Israel HaYom, the freely distributed tabloid, which according to widespread rumor was launched by Adelson to oust prime minister Ehud Olmert and install Binyamin Netanyahu, and which now boasts a larger readership than Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s most popular newspaper for decades.
Apropos Shapiro, he and his wife paid a pre-Rosh Hashana visit to Bnei Brak where they met with some of the leading Torah scholars including Ponevezh Yeshiva head Rabbi Aaron Leib Shteinman, with whom Shapiro conversed in Hebrew and through whom he expressed his good wishes to the entire community. The Shapiros also met with the mayor, Rabbi Yaakov Asher, and with members of the city council who told them about the city’s 60th anniversary and the council’s plans to expand business opportunities in Bnei Brak.
In the course of their tour of the city the Shapiros also visited a girls’ school where the US Embassy provides assistance in teaching English to the students. The couple’s itinerary also included a visit to the Mayanei HaYeshua hospital to see the care given to mothers and babies, and before leaving they stopped at a few stores to make purchases for the holiday period.
■ NOT ALL politicians or would-be politicians have class. Jerusalem businessman Erel Margalit, who has done some fantastic things for the capital’s cultural and entertainment scene as well as sponsoring volunteer enrichment programs in poor neighborhoods, not only has class but nous. Unlike Amram Mitzna, who was too proud to concede defeat and help one of the other candidates vying for the Labor Party chairmanship, Margalit, when he realized that he had no chance of winning and after losing his bid to the have the Labor primaries rescheduled, threw the weight of his support behind Isaac Herzog.
No-one can be sure to what extent that was a booster, but there is no doubt that all the pollsters were completely off target in their forecasts for Herzog. Even though he came in third, he did much better than the pre-election polls indicated. But Margalit wasn’t finished with being a gentleman. Last week he hosted a party to toast in the New Year and to thank the people who had in one way or another been involved in his campaign.
The overcrowded event with food, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages attracted people from all over the country.
Margalit was amazed. He had expected fifty or sixty people to turn up, but he was thrilled to see hundreds.
“Anyone would think we’d won the election,” he said with a grin. Campaign leaders from around the country mounted the stage to share their overwhelmingly positive impressions of Margalit, whose next personal ambition is to be a member of Knesset. Some of his followers can already picture him as a government minister and even as prime minister. Several spoke of his unique leadership qualities. Margalit said the campaign had been a wonderful experience enabling him to meet students, members of the Ethiopian community, single mothers and homeless people, among others. He asked everyone to join him in the effort to revive the Labor Party.
“Whether you voted for Shelly [Yacimovich] or not, you have to admit that she brought new blood in to the party,” he said.
“This is a real opportunity for Labor to rebuild itself and in doing so to help build up the country.” Looking out at the crowd Margalit said that each and every person there was a leader, or least had leadership potential. He singled out Cinematheque founder and director Lia Van Leer who, at age 87, is still one of the most active social creatures in Jerusalem, attending countless events inside and outside the city. The Israel Cinematheques and the Jerusalem Cinematheques in particular have hosted numerous international and special theme film festivals, which have attracted to Israel some of the most distinguished people in the global film industry. The Cinematheque archives are a treasure trove. Margalit dubbed Van Leer a leader of Israeli culture who created a revolution. As Van Leer stood up to acknowledge the tribute, she was greeted by cheers and a thunderous ovation.
Given his popularity in Jerusalem, Margalit might do better if he ran for mayor. Then again, Arcadi Gaydamak, another philanthropist who gave a lot to the city, especially to the financially ailing Beitar Football Club, encountered an ungrateful public and failed miserably in his bid to become mayor. He was so embittered that he went back to Russia. Mindful of this, Margalit may continue to keep his focus on national politics.
■ SUCCOT IS on the horizon, and with it comes the anticipation of the annual Moshav Succot Country Fair at Moshav Mevo Modi’m, the Moshav that was founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and his followers. The event, organized by veteran moshav members Avraham and Leah Sand, includes some nine ongoing hours of song with a wealth of performers, including Benzion Solomon and Sons, Yehuda Katz and Friends, Josh Laufer and Friends and Aryeh Naftali and Friends. Events of the day also include a children’s festival replete with storytelling, theater and workshops, a women’s gathering with prayer, story-telling and healing through singing, plus arts and crafts booths and food booths.
The fair will be on Monday, October 17, the fourth day of Succot. The suggested entrance donation is NIS 50 for a day and a night of spiritual uplift, enjoyment and social networking.