Angela Merkel Visits Yad Vashem with PM Bennett for Last Time in Office - The Jewish Voice
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Angela Merkel Visits Yad Vashem with PM Bennett for Last Time in Office

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Sunday, October 10th together with the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Dani Dayan, and the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.

Prime Minister Bennett and German Chancellor Merkel visited the “Flashes of Memory: Photography during the Holocaust” exhibition, and the Museum of Holocaust Art, featuring the art of – inter alia – Belgian artist Carol Deutsch.

The leaders later observed the Shoah Legacy Campus, which is currently under construction, as well as the objects from Hamburg – Chancellor Merkel’s birthplace – which will be exhibited there.

After the tour, the two met with Holocaust survivor Dr. Henry Foner.

Chancellor Merkel also laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem, where she urged a constant stand against anti-Semitism. “Every visit to Yad Vashem touches me at the core,” Merkel said, according to a translation provided by the museum. “The crimes against the Jewish people that are documented here are a perpetual reminder of the responsibility we Germans bear — and a warning,” she added, saying it was Germany’s responsibility to stand up against anti-Semitism.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO

At the conclusion of the visit, Prime Minister Bennett and Chancellor Merkel participated in a state memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, at the end of which the Chancellor signed Yad Vashem’s official guest book.

Following are Prime Minister Bennett’s remarks at the ceremony:

“The Hebrew word ‘shoah’, which has also become established around the world and serves to describe the destruction of the Jewish people during World War II, comes from Psalm 63:10 ‘But they seek my soul to make it desolate.’

The original meaning of the word is ‘desolation’. The Nazis’ goal was to leave behind them a desolation – the complete erasure of our people. One-third of it was lost, six million men, women and children.

But honored guests, when one leaves Yad Vashem and sees the words of the prophet Zechariah 8:5, ‘And the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in its streets’, one understands the enormity of the disaster, and one also understands the enormity of the miracle: Only a few decades separate between the strong, prosperous and optimistic Israel of our days and the Shoah, the most massive genocide in history, and the most difficult, darkest and most painful chapter in the annals of our people.

The Shoah has many lessons. Even decades later, the Jewish people have yet to comprehend the depth of the disaster that befell it. In my view, the most important lesson is the simplest and most self-evident: The place of the Jewish people is on its soil, here in the Land of Israel.

The Shoah is not the reason for the existence of the State of Israel. The connection of the Jewish people to its land did not start at Auschwitz. But Auschwitz – our brothers and sisters who were lost there – strengthens our determination to never again be defenseless, far from our homeland.

For me, as a believing Jew, as an Israeli, in whom is etched the history of our people, and is with him wherever he goes, as someone with family roots that were cut off in the Shoah and which are commemorated here by name, as the Prime Minister of Israel, the future of which is entrusted in his hands, all roads lead to Jerusalem.”

Earlier in the day Prime Minister Bennett welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. In his remarks, Bennett told the German Chancellor:

“Welcome to Israel, dear friend of Israel. It’s a pleasure to have you Chancellor Merkel, and your delegation. We very much appreciate your ongoing friendship and commitment to the people of Israel. The relationship between Germany and Israel has been strong, but in your term, it has never been stronger; it has become more than just an alliance. It has become a true friendship thanks to your leadership. We’re looking forward to strengthening it even more in business relations, science, education, health and of course, in security.

Sometimes a leader makes a profound difference and I think your leadership paved the foundation for an ongoing commitment of Germany to Israel’s security and we very much appreciate it.

We certainly remember history and we look optimistically to a brighter future. My government will continue the ongoing relationship but our new government also brings a new spirit, a new spirit of goodwill.

It’s the most diverse government in Israel’s history. We have left and right, Jews and Muslims, religious and secular–and it’s working, we’re getting together pretty well. It’s also the most female government in Israel’s history, with eight ministers and I think that’s one of the reasons it’s actually working. So I wanted to thank you.

I’m sure we’re going to have a very productive meeting and on behalf of the people of Israel. I want to thank you, ‘Todah Lach’ [thank you] Angela, thank you.”

Chancellor Merkel responded by saying: “I would like to thank you very much for this very friendly welcome. I consider it a great pleasure and great honor to be able to visit Israel once again at the end of my term in office, and to get to know the new Israeli prime minister. During my term in office I have tried together with all members of my government to work hard to make the relationship between both our countries and peoples even stronger and broader, for example through the inter-governmental consultations.

It is not only matters that affect our past that play a part, but also our look to a common future. However, it is fair to say that I continue to consider it a stroke of good fortune given to us by history that after the crimes against humanity of the Shoah, it has been possible to reset and to reestablish relations between Germany and Israel to the extent that we have done. I want to use this opportunity to emphasize that the topic of Israel’s security will always be of central importance and a central topic of every German government.

I look forward to the good exchanges and talks we’re going to have and I very much look forward to getting to know the members of this very diverse cabinet of yours. Compared with your government, a German coalition government seems a very simple matter.”

(Sources: Israel GPO)

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