The fact that Germany is welcome to join the celebrations to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary is an indescribable gift for us. Seventy-three years after the Shoah, our two countries and societies are united by a true friendship. We can be eternally grateful for this every day. It is a miracle, but as David Ben-Gurion once said, “in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles!”
Equally, it is a sign of our friendship that we can discuss differences of opinion openly should they arise. But above all that, it must always be part of our country’s identity to stand up for Israel’s security and to speak out against anti-Semitism.
When it is still the case that Jewish schools and institutions in Germany need police protection, prizes are awarded for anti-Semitic provocations, and children are threatened with anti-Semitism in our schools, this brings shame on our country and shows that even today we must continue to take an outspoken stance against all forms of anti Semitism.
Our responsibility to protect Jewish life will never end. There can be no tolerance for anyone who wants to divide our society on the grounds of religion, skin colour, race or background.
During my first visit to Israel as Foreign Minister, I was particularly moved by my meeting with Holocaust survivors. Despite suffering unspeakable cruelty, they invited me to celebrate Passover with them. In this way, these Israelis of the founding generation put into practice what the Israeli author Amos Oz once said, namely that “the past is always present and will always remain present, but we must remember that the past belongs to us – we do not belong to the past.”
Seventy years after the foundation of Israel, our friendship thrives on the contact between so many Germans and Israelis in both countries. At a time when populists all over the world are preaching nationalism and isolation, our response should be to stand up for more international cooperation, more freedom and more respect.
Our aim is to consolidate the friendship between Germany and Israel in awareness of the horrors of the past and with a desire to build a bright and peaceful future for the generations to come.