Germany says ‘I like Israel’

Festivals show solidarity with Jewish state.

I Like Israel Day in Germany (photo credit: Courtesy)
I Like Israel Day in Germany
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – Germans celebrated 62 years since the Jewish state’s founding with annual “I Like Israel” festivals in almost 50 cities, beginning earlier this month and wrapping up on Monday.
“Despite the mostly awful weather, the ILI day 2010 was just what we had hoped it would be: lots of smiles, dancing, mixing and mingling and much more,” Sacha Stawski, the new president of ILI, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
He added that “there were some who saw the Israeli flags as an invitation to try and talk politics, but that was not what ILI is about. ILI is all about Israel beyond the conflict. There is so much that the daily press does not show when reporting about Israel, and it is just this which we concentrate on when we cross borders, cultures and religions to celebrate Israel’s birthday in an increasing number of cities worldwide.”
Claudia Korenke, the international coordinator for ILI, helped organize events across Germany and in Durban, South Africa, Miami and Krakow.ILI is an expression of the “large solidarity with the country [Israel],” she told the Post.
Korenke, who also heads the German-Israeli friendship society in Frankfurt, said roughly 700 people turned out for the ILI event in the city. Avishay Smoler, who stars for Israel’s national handball team and plays for the H.S.G Wetzlar club in Hesse, appeared at the festival to sign autographs. Smoler, who was born in Rishon Lezion, is the first Israeli to play in the premier German federal handball league.
Korenke said several thousand visitors attended the pro-Israel event in Cologne. The city has been a hotbed of anti-Israeli sentiments and Social Democratic Mayor Jürgen Roters has refused to shut down an anti-Semitic “Wailing Wall” exhibit downtown. The exhibit features a cartoon showing a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with a fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word “Gaza.” A blood-filled glass appears next to the plate.
Some 3,000 people visited the ILI event in Munich, Anat Rajber, a sabra who has lived in Germany for 30 years, told the Post. Rajber laid the groundwork for celebrating Israel’s 62 birthday, and said the event attracted significant local media coverage. Bavarian Television reported on Israeli culture, music and cuisine at the festival situated on Max-Joseph-Square. Local politicians, dignitaries and Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, spoke at the event.
Rajber, Korenke and Stawski all stressed that the “I Like Israel” events provide an opportunity to move beyond the “negative news items about Israel” in the German press and to showcase the achievements of the Jewish state.
Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews, slammed the German left-of-center press (junge Welt, Neues Deutschland and die tageszeitung) last week in a Focus magazine interview for an “uncompromising partisanship for the Palestinian position.”
ILI issues an electronic newsletter featuring news items largely ignored by the mainstream German media, such as Israeli business, cultural and scientific developments. The ILI newsletter has a special section devoted to press criticism titled “What does not appear in the Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper.
According to the ILI newsletter for May, the large liberal dailySüddeutsche Zeitung failed to report on Hamas razingdozens of homes in the southern Gaza town of Rafah earlier in themonth. The terrorist group brutally evicted residents because the homeswere allegedly built unlawfully on the Hamas regime’s land.
ILI also criticized the Süddeutsche Zeitung’sfailure to cover the Palestinian Authority TV broadcast urging Israelisto return to “your original homeland,” citing such countries asGermany,Poland, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Russia.
Korenke said that against the backdrop of synagogues standing underpolice protection in Germany, it is important to show that one “shouldnot be afraid to bring Israel to the streets.”
The next ILI event will take place Germany-wide on May 10, 2011, she said.