Peres gets jet escort into Germany

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

peres berlin 248 (photo credit: GPO)
peres berlin 248
(photo credit: GPO)

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

ThreeGerman Air Force Phantom jets escorted the president's plane into theairport. Peres entered the cockpit and spoke to the German pilots byradio. The pilots welcomed Peres and his entourage to their country andthe president thanked them and told them that he was familiar withtheir 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 andour two armies, and send you the warm regards of the Israel DefenseForces," he told the pilots.

Peres was joined on the special El Al flight by agroup of Holocaust survivors from Germany, a delegation of youthleaders selected by the Ministry of Education and a contingent of theIsraeli press. MK Ya'acov Ederi of Kadima is representing the Knessetin the state visit.

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

Thetemperature was minus 9ºC and the president's staff was franticallylooking for someone to provide Peres with a warm hat before exiting theaircraft.

The streets of Berlin were covered with snow, and Israeli flagsaccompanied the German and European Union ones on flag posts along theway 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 AngelaMerkel and President Horst Koehler. He is scheduled to participate in aremembrance ceremony at the Holocaust memorial located on the Grunewaldtrain station's platform 17, from where thousands of Berlin Jews weresent to the their deaths. Koehler and a delegation of Israeli survivorsand students will attend the ceremony.

Later that afternoon, Peres will meet with Merkel.

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

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

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