(JTA) — One of Belgium’s largest Catholic churches played the Israeli anthem on its bells in honor of a visit by the president of the Jewish state, Reuven Rivlin.
"Hatikvah" rang for the first time ever from the bells of Antwerp’s majestic Cathedral of Our Lady, prompting an astonished Rivlin to exclaim to Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever: “This is a real welcome!”
Rivlin, who arrived in Antwerp as part of his four-day visit to Belgium and European Union institutions, remarked with a smile to De Wever that the melody is actually based on a piece titled "Moldau" composed by Bedrich Smetana, a 19th-century Czech composer.
During his visit, which began Monday, Rivlin made several references to the deadly attacks in Belgium by Islamist terrorists that took the lives of 32 victims on March 22.
“Today we know that there is a link between anti-Semitism against Jews and jihadi terror that kills innocent people of all religions,” Rivlin said in a joint news statement at the end of his meeting Monday in Brussels with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. “We must not wait for anti-Semitism to become terror; we must fight it from the beginning, together.”
Israel, Rivlin added, “is concerned by the activities” in Belgium of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“BDS is of no importance, but even their small victories can give the wrong impression. We hope that under your leadership, Belgium will say 'no to BDS' and 'yes to peace,' 'yes to cooperation,'” he said.
Michel in his statement touched on the issue of BDS only indirectly.
“The cooperation between us is significant — especially in the area of trade," he said. "We appreciate Israeli innovation, and the drive for education and academic development.”
Michel said Rivlin’s visit will help further cooperation in both areas with Belgium.