Israel-Germany Ties Since Holocaust 'A Miracle'

German Chancellor meets Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during trip marking half a century of strong ties despite shadows of the past.

Ari Soffer ,

President Reuven Rivlin meets Chancellor Merkel in historic trip
President Reuven Rivlin meets Chancellor Merkel in historic trip
Amos Ben-Gershom

During his state visit to Germany marking half a century of diplomatic ties with Israel, Israeli President of Israel Reuven Rivlin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who greeted him warmly and praised the "miracle" of Israeli-German relations after the holocaust.

During the meeting, the two spoke of the importance of strengthening and deepening the alliance between Israel and Germany, and particularly in forging ties between the youth in both countries, in order to maintain and preserve the relations in the future.

At the conclusion of their meeting, President Rivlin told the Chancellor that he saw her as a true friend of the State of Israel, and thanked her for her support over the years. 

"In the last fifty years, we have built a relationship rooted in friendship, mutual understanding, and the ability to look to the future while learning from the lessons of the past.  It is a great honor for me to be the President of Israel with the opportunity to mark alongside you this remarkable jubilee," Rivlin said.

Following their meeting, the President and Chancellor met with twenty young Germans and Israelis, with whom they held a wide-ranging discussion on the young participants' visions for the future of relations between the countries.

Addressing them, Rivlin said it was down to the younger generations in both countries to "provide both peoples with the ability to look to the future, not by ignoring the past, by learning from it."

Chancellor Merkel - a staunch supporter of the Jewish state - noted that Germany's ties with Israel in the past several decades are nothing short of miraculous given the terrible baggage of the Nazi German genocide of Jews during the holocaust.

"After the Holocaust, it is a miracle that you are here together, and indeed the relationship between Germany and Israel is itself a miracle," Merkel told the group of young citizens.

"I am amazed by the courage of Israel’s politicians who continue to look straight into the future, without forgetting the past." 

"For many Germans living in East Germany, today marks only twenty-five years of relations with Israel, (since the unification of Germany)," she added. "I grew up in the east, in a state without relations with Israel, and I am delighted to meet you here today, to mark together fifty years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany."

The twenty youths who participated in the meeting – ten Israelis and ten Germans – were participants in a special congress which took place in Berlin with the aim of creating a joint discussion analyzing the relations between the two countries and peoples, on a range of issues, while experiencing joint working sessions and partnership in the fields of culture and the arts.

Earlier in the day, President Rivlin held a working meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

The President spoke with the Foreign Minister about "the obligation to build trust between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in order to return to direct negotiations, and about the obligation to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, and the need to restore normal civilian life to the residents there," according to the President's Office.

Steinmeier thanked Rivlin for his visit, during which he noted the mutual threat both countries face from the rise of "fundamentalism", which he said "is not solely a threat to Israel, but a danger to the whole world – and to Europe in particular."