Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at a reception at the Embassy of the State of Israel on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of independence of the State of Israel

19.04.2018 - Speech

Federal President, Ambassador Issacharoff, dear Jeremy,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Yesterday evening at dusk, “Heritage of Innovation” began – the 70 hour programme with which Israel is celebrating throughout the country the 70th anniversary of its founding. Seventy years ago on this day according to the Jewish calendar, and on 14 May 1948 according to the Gregorian calendar, David Ben Gurion read out Israel’s Declaration of Independence in what was then the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This was a Jewish dream come true.

Here in Berlin this evening we have the opportunity to raise our glasses together with our Israeli friends and the friends of Israel in Germany and to offer you our sincere congratulations on this anniversary. Ambassador, I would like to express to you my heartfelt thanks for your invitation today and for your very kind opening words. It is an honour for me to be here today.

Ladies and gentlemen,
As Foreign Minister I felt it was a particular priority for me to travel to Israel as soon as possible. Every visit to Israel is especially significant for a German minister. Its importance was all the greater only a few weeks before the major anniversary Israel is celebrating today, which is also a very special date for us Germans.

For the fact that Germany and Israel are bound by a true friendship 73 years after the crime against humanity of the Shoah and 70 years after the founding of the State of Israel is a wonderful gift for us Germans. Sometimes we feel that it is an undeserved gift. And for this reason we thank the numerous people in both countries who have allowed our friendship to flourish.

Ladies and gentlemen,
For me, the terrible crimes of the Holocaust committed by Germans against Jews do not only create an historic responsibility for our country. They also form a profound personal motivation for my political work. I regard it as a personal responsibility to ensure that Germany works to promote the existence and security of Israel. And it is a personal responsibility for me to ensure that we take a decisive stand against all forms of anti Semitism and racism and that we promote respect for human rights – also and specifically here in Germany with regard both to those who have always lived here and those who have come to us.

And I want to state very clearly that as long as Jewish schools and the synagogues in Germany require police protection, as long as young men are beaten up on the streets in broad daylight simply because they are wearing a kippah, as long as prizes are awarded for anti Semitic provocations, our country should be ashamed.
And this shows that even today, we must still take an outspoken stance against all forms of anti Semitism. In the case of anti Semitism in Germany, nothing should be dismissed as too trivial. Our responsibility to protect Jewish life will never end.

During my visit to Israel, I was particularly moved by my meeting with Holocaust survivors, who invited me to their Passover celebration at the AMCHA Centre in Jerusalem. We ate and drank together and joined together in singing. It was very special. I was impressed by how big hearted these people must be.
For they are living out what Amos Oz once expressed like this: “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.”
With this in mind, we must keep the memory alive – at no point can we draw a line under it.

Ladies and gentlemen,
When a state celebrates its 70th birthday, it can still be considered young. Yet the past 70 years were by no means easy for Israel – the young state had a difficult youth and had to learn to stand on its own feet very quickly. My main hope for Israel is that the next 70 years will be peaceful, in both its internal and its external relations. I hope we will see peace in whose light the country will flourish even more. That is what David Ben Gurion always dreamed of. And he also said: In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles. Some say that peace in the Middle East would be a miracle. I, then, stand here as a realist in the sense of David Ben Gurion, for I believe in a just peace, in which Israel’s existence and security are guaranteed and Israelis can live alongside their neighbours in peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, we want to consolidate the friendship between our countries to an even greater extent and to show our people just how wide ranging our ties already are. To this end, we are working closely with the Israeli Embassy to support numerous events in Israel and Germany. We want to work to further deepen the numerous ties that already link us in the spheres of politics, art, culture, science and business.

Ambassador, I would like to thank you and your staff most sincerely for your tireless efforts to achieve this on a day to day basis. This engagement, too, draws the people of our two countries even closer together. Thank you very much.

Our friendship lives through the interaction between Germans and Israelis, with an awareness of the horrors of the past and with the desire to build a bright future for the generations to come. Our friendship shows that miracles in the course of history are possible. Let us do everything in our power to enable us to continue to experience this miracle.

Thank you very much.


Top of page