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The Honorable Oberbuerger-meister of Münster, my friend Markus Lewe; Members of the City Council; Distinguished Guests:

 

I stand here before you with mixed feelings.

Foto: WN 2.3.2015 (bitte klicken)

On one hand, I am honored to represent my city Rishon LeZion, and celebrate the special 40-year relationship between Rishon LeZion and Münster, as part of the unique 50-year relationship between Germany and Israel.

On the other hand, I stand here before you, a son of the Jewish nation, and of my father may he rest in peace, as one who bears the memory of the Holocaust deeply engraved in my flesh and heart, throughout my entire life.

My father Shimon was born in Hungary; he passed away this year.

In the Jewish religion, we use the word “released”, because a person is released from the burden of doing good deeds in his life.

My beloved father was released from the burden of the hard life he was born into.

Only God in heaven knows why; why was the boy Shimon, my father, his brother, and the children of his generation, exposed to the horrors of the World War?

Why did the lad Shimon have to be sent to concentration camps, and why was he blessed to survive when so many others died?

Why was he forced at such a young age to cross the European continent, for three long years, in the cursed work camps?

And why, after walking hundreds of kilometers back to his home village, did he have to discover that he was alone in the world, no parents, no brothers or sisters, no relatives or friends – nobody?

My father survived, and came to Israel. He suffered greatly until he married my mother and I was born, and for the second time in his life he had a family.

I will never forget him coming home tired from his job as a simple laborer, turning on the radio and listening attentively, anxiously, day after day, to the radio program called “the section for locating relatives” (we had such a radio program in Israel, and for years Holocaust survivors tried to find surviving relatives and friends through its broadcasts), at first hopefully, and later desperately, trying to find surviving family or friends.

I promised my father that I would forever continue to tell people about this, so that they would understand the meaning of our life in Israel.

My father’s story belongs to an entire generation of the Jewish people, born into one of the darkest eras of the human history.

The Holocaust caused loss not only for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity: 22% (twenty-two percent) of all Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, even though we represent only 0.2% (zero point two percent) of the entire world population.

Try to calculate: how many Einsteins did the world lose when the Nazis murdered a third of the Jews? How many writers like Franz Kafka? How many researchers like Sigmund Freud? And how many entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg?

This is no longer the problem of the Jewish nation alone.

Unfortunately, all around us ignorantness exists, easily ignited by hatred, and we already know what such ignorant hate can cause. See what is happening in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

How many life-saving doctors could have come from the hundreds of thousands killed in Syria? How many philosophers did we lose from the women murdered senselessly in Nigeria?

We need to ask ourselves if the world we created after the Second World War, after the Holocaust, is good enough – a world of the United Nations, of democracy and of global village prosperity – is it good enough?

For the second time in my life, I stand on the soil of Germany. The first time was as a fifteen-year-old lad, with a delegation of youth who swore never to return to Germany.

Even so, I am here again today, because I understand that in order to create a better world, each of us must sacrifice something.

The process of establishing peace and harmony in the world is through the hard work and efforts of many, and it depends on removing barriers, fear and ignorantness.

I believe that my small part, my duty, is to strengthen the bond between our two cities, bring our youth together, open information channels, connect between people and make sure that ignorantness becomes acknowledgement, and fear of the unfamiliar becomes acceptance and a multi-cultural experience.

Only thus we can root out the nests of hatred and create friendship and harmony.

I am sorry to bring up such a subject during this evening’s celebration, but the past cannot be erased or cleansed.

Regardless, I stand here today, because in spite of everything – we won. Throughout the hardships and oppression, the Jewish nation maintained its character and identity, and all that unites our most ancient of people.

We succeeded in establishing the State of Israel, the only place in the world where we really belong, and bring home almost half of the world's Jewish population.

 

We established a democracy in a land ruled by tyranny for thousands of years. Our democracy is steadfast and enlightened, withstanding the hardships of battles over our borders against a Muslim world of 1.6 (one point six) billion Muslims, and a large Arab public within our borders – a complicated situation, one which Germany is also beginning to experience.

We established a State that can rely on its own army, the Israeli Defense Force. Hundreds of thousands of active and reserve soldiers, equipped with the latest technology, made in Israel.

With this army we won all the battles we fought, but even that is a bitter victory.

Seventy years after the World War, and sixty-seven years after our War of Independence, we are still fighting, and our youth continue to sacrifice their lives, time after time, because we are forced to defend ourselves.

Our flourishing economy is one of the most advanced in the world; our industry promotes developments by the finest Jewish-Israeli minds, and our agriculture provides us with the ability to maintain vital trade.

I ask myself: was it really necessary to pay such a terrible price, six million lives, to receive recognition for our right to exist by the world's nations?

We will never know.

After describing Israel's achievements, I am still a worried Israeli. I am concerned about the gap between how Israel really is, and how Israel is perceived, its reputation in the world.

You may not know this, but every Jewish prayer includes a verse yearning for peace – even when accompanying the deceased to their grave.

Even so, Israel is associated in the world with the bloody conflict in the Middle East, and not in a positive way.

Israel grants its Arab citizens full rights to vote, to be elected, to succeed  and obtain an education, while in the surrounding Arab countries a Jew has no chance of receiving similar rights.

Even so, Israel is portrayed as a country which restricts minorities.

The Israeli parliament includes an Arab faction of 13 members, strongly representing the interests of the Arab public.

Have any of you heard of a Jewish faction, or any kind of Jewish representation, in the Egyptian parliament? The Jordanian parliament? Lebanon? Iran? Maybe just one Jewish parliament member in any Arab country?

And still, Israel is portrayed as a dictatorship.

It is my hope that the relationship between Rishon LeZion and Münster becomes a bridge to the world, connecting everyone to the beautiful, prosperous and democratic country that Israel really is.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud of the alliance between our twin cities, and wish to express my special appreciation to the community leaders of Münster and its residents, who invested greatly in the commemoration of the Holocaust and in educating the younger generations to remember and learn from the past.

The city of Münster represents an excellent model for all of Germany.

We thank you for your steadfast support of the State of Israel during difficult times, and your friendship with the city of Rishon LeZion and its residents.

I will never forget the moving condolences I received from my friend, Markus Lewe, the Honorable Ober-berger-meister of Münster, when during the last war against the Hamas we buried three of Rishon LeZion's finest sons.

It is my greatest wish that such relationships continue to flourish.

I wish to thank my hosts, Mr. Lewe and his staff, especially Monika and Christiane, for their warm hospitality, and for giving us a tour of your beautiful city.

It is evident that much thought was put into the success of this visit.

Thank you all, and enjoy the rest of your evening.