A Miraculous Transformation: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of German-Israeli Diplomatic Relations

On Monday, May 11, 2015, The Consulate General of Israel to New England, AJC Boston, and the Consulate General of Germany in Boston celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Israel and Germany. Over 200 guests listened as Consuls General Yehuda Yaakov and Rolf Schutte, as well as AJC’s Executive Director, David Harris discussed the nature of today’s relationship between the two countries. The evening also featured music by German-Jewish composer, Kurt Weill, performed by Dr. Osnat Netzer.

The speaking portion of the evening began with Consul General Schutte’s statement that, “While much is known about both Germany, the Holocaust and Israel, very little is known about what binds Germany and Israel today.” Relations between the two countries go back even further than May 12, 1965. What is important here, is the contacts between the civil societies and individuals.

Israel needed support and security and Germany wanted to prove to the world that they had learned the lessons of the Nazi’s past. This relationship, however, was not just a tactical move, stated CG Schutte, “it stemmed from a genuine desire of many individual Germans to draw conclusions from the past, and to make amends.”

Consul General Yaakov was elated to be apart of such an event. According to CG Yaakov, “The celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany — this miraculous transformation — is one of hope and optimism.”

He gave examples of times that Germany has stood by Israel’s side on the international stage, and times that the two countries have worked together to advance the family of nations. In 2009, Germany voted against the U.N. General Assembly resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report on Gaza, and more recently opposed most of its EU co-members over an anti-Israel initiative in UNESCO. Also since 2009, Germany and Israel have been developing projects in Africa — focusing on Burkin Faso, Cameroon and Burundi — in the areas of water management, agriculture and health.

Today, organizations dedicated to science, research and industry form the “backbone” of German and Israeli relations and cultural exchanges in each country are in great demand.

The final portion of the evening was the keynote address by AJC’s Executive Director, David Harris. His primary message was that the central vision of the last 50 years — the way we arrived to where we are today — was the courage and vision of each country’s leaders. Looking to the future, the continued success of this relationship, as well as relationships between other conflicting nations, will come from the courage and vision of strong leaders.

L-R: Consul General Yehuda Yaakov, AJC Executive Director David Harris, Consul General Rolf Schutte

The timing of the event could not have been more appropriate as Israeli President Rivlin landed in Germany on Monday, and German Defense Minister von der Leyen visited Israel.

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