Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) on Wednesday signed an agreement with German officials to have the German language taught in Israeli schools.
The Jewish Home chairman signed the agreement with acting German Minister to Israel Monika Iwersen, as well as Udo Michallik, the German Secretary General of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education.
The agreement signed in the meeting, which was announced by the German Embassy to Israel on Thursday in a press release and was also announced on the official Facebook page of the Israeli Embassy to Germany, expresses joint intent to add German language as an elective in Israeli schools.
German classes will first be offered at five schools and start in the ninth grade. At the completion of studies, students will take an exam to receive a German Language Diploma – known as DSD in a German acronym – which will count on the matriculation exams.
The decision to include German in schools may strike some as controversial given the genocidal crimes committed by the German Nazis against the Jewish people during the Holocaust; Israel is home to many Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
Upon the signing of the agreement, Michallik said, "this is a welcome development to mark the relations of the two states, that now Israeli male and female students will learn the German language in the framework of their regular studies at school, and will at the same time be able to obtain a German diploma."
"This testifies – and this isn't something that was a forgone conclusion – to how far we've come in 50 years of dialogue and exchanges since diplomatic relations were established between Germany and Israel," said Michallik.
Bennett for his part welcomed the joint agreement, saying that Israel relates to Germany as a "great friend." He also expressed great interest in how German schools teach group activity and a desire for exchanges on the topic.
Michallik invited Bennett to the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Culture which will be held in early December in Berlin, to which Bennett showed interest and called to continue and advance the joint dialogue.
While Germany has been a key ally of Israel particularly in providing nuclear submarines, the two countries have not been without their tensions of late as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic crimes skyrocket in Germany. Just this month a Jewish boycott of the German airline Lufthansa was called due to the company's singling out of Israel to not be included on a baggage policy.
Regarding the Germany language, the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor (Binyamin Ze'ev) Herzl (1860-1904), controversially proposed that German be made the official language of Israel. His suggestion was shot down, as the Hebrew language of the Jewish people was instead made the official language of the modern Jewish state.
Gil Ronen contributed to this report.