Thank you very much, Dikla Levinger and Shai Hoffmann.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Plan your lives very carefully but keep dreaming! This advice came from Shimon Peres.
My participation in this award ceremony at Berlin’s City Hall was planned some time ago. However, I would never have dreamed that I would be standing alone here today.
One year ago, we had a big party here together – with hundreds of guests, happy prizewinners and great live music.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important thing is missing this year: all of you, our guests. I therefore want to congratulate this year’s prizewinners all the more warmly – through this virtual medium! Your projects on inclusion and environmental protection are incredible. Thank you for all your work!
I’d also like to thank the German-Israeli Future Forum Foundation for planning this digital celebration. Shimon Peres dreamed of understanding and progress through technology. We remember him as the “godfather” of Israel, the start-up nation. For that reason, I’m sure that he would have liked this virtual watch party.
Shimon Peres had a second dream – about German-Israeli friendship. It seemed illusory after the horrors of the Shoa. But Shimon Peres worked hard to realise it – harder than anyone else. For instance, back in 1986 he became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Berlin.
All of you prizewinners are realising the dream of friendship between our countries. This friendship depends on encounters. This is why my colleague Gabi Ashkenazi and I agreed during my last visit to Israel in June to strengthen the German-Israeli youth exchange – and therefore also to support the development of a joint youth office.
That is important to me personally – for the pandemic has boosted racist and antisemitic prejudices –also here in Germany and Europe. And even before that, racism and antisemitism led to many deaths in Germany.
I therefore want to state quite clearly that we must continue to fight against racism and antisemitism – with all our strength. Last year we established a European network to this end, “Combatting Anti-Semitism Through Education”. And this year we are working during our Presidency of the Council of the European Union on joint EU strategies to counter antisemitism.
Finally, Shimon Peres stands for the dream of peace: the dream of Israelis and Palestinians as peaceful neighbours – in two states.
Israel’s recent decision to suspend its annexation plans gives cause for hope. However, durable peace will require new talks on a fair two-state solution. And we’re working to bring that about.
From our own history, we know that adversaries can become partners and ultimately friends if people have the courage to reach out to each other.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this spirt, I now cordially invite you to Berlin next year for the Shimon Peres Prize award ceremony 2021 – if the virus allows it. We will do everything we can to make it possible.
Next year in Jerusalem! That’s what Jews say at Passover. It symbolises the hope of the Jewish people after two thousand years of the diaspora. And full of hope and anticipation I’d like to add today: hopefully next year in Berlin!