Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, on a state visit to Germany to mark the jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries, stressed the importance of Holocaust remembrance, continued close Israel-Germany cooperation, and presenting a common front against racism, extremism and anti-Semitism.
At an official state dinner on Monday, hosted by President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, at Berlin’s Bellevue Palace, Rivlin said that "the strong, and deep friendship we celebrate this year, between Israel and Germany, was made possible by Germany taking responsibility for the crimes of the past."
Rivlin added that the bridges built the two countries over the past half-century "are not only dependent on the historical duty of the descendants of the killers and murders towards the descendants of the victims. These bridges rest upon the foundations of brave and deep national soul searching. Germany remains among the few countries in Europe to acknowledge, officially and nationally, its responsibility for the crimes it led against our people."
Germany’s President Gauck stressed the multidimensional nature of Germany-Israel ties, thanked Rivlin personally for working to build relations between the two countries’ national parliaments, and expressed his pleasure that "Israelis and Germans are meeting one another, outside the framework of political life, with countless opportunities, including here in Berlin with artists and young students working to enrich this city, the city in which long prospered German-Jewish culture," adding that "it is good to hear Hebrew in the streets."
The German president also addressed rising anti-Semitism directly, saying, "I know that you in Israel are looking with great concern at the rise in anti-Jewish violence. Also in Germany, we heard in the last year evil, anti-Semitic chants, during demonstrations against Israel’s policies and military actions in Gaza. The overwhelming majority of Germans were shocked and ashamed of this." President Gauck said that, "regardless of from where the evil of anti-Semitism arises – from the far Right or far Left, from veteran citizens or immigrants – it will not be tolerated in our country. We will not allow fanaticism to poison our political climate, or engulf us in fear.”
Earlier on Monday, Rivlin participated in a number of activities on the first day of his state visit, including a symbolic walk through the iconic Brandenburg Gate with Berlin’s mayor, Michael Muller. Rivlin also participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the ‘Gleis 17′ memorial at Berlin’s Grunewald railway station, which commemorates the deportation of Berlin Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
President Reuven Rivlin, right, and Israel’s ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, left, take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the ‘Gleis 17’ in Berlin. (AP)
Rivlin, together with German President Gauck, also met participants of the Israeli-German Youth Congress, comprised of 300 Israelis and Germans between the ages of 18-30 who are partenered in a range of projects in the arts and culture.
Addressing the youths, Rivlin emphasized the importance of collaborations between the two countries, and their common commitment to facing "the challenge of the rise of fundamentalism, extremism, and yes, racism and anti-Semitism. It is our deep friendship, that will allow us to overcome these challenges. It is my belief, that no free nation, no free people, can or should, stand alone.”