Germany

“… we lose the best and hail the rest …”

This song is one of a CD I used to listen to on my way to work when I lived in Israel. I really like the whole album and a lot of the songs remember me of Israel and somehow blend into my experience, but this one is special.

The weather is dark and rainy
And I have lost my path.
There is no light, no hope, no time
In that cruelness of the dark.
Oh God why I can’t find you?
Why can’t you here my words?
Can you see me fighting in this fields,
for causes I don’t know?

Oh my gallant love where have you gone?
I miss your gentle touch.
Our children grow fine and strong
They’re missing you so much
If the harvest rain falls on our home ,
the days grow fairly long.
But the horizon stays without you
from dusk until dawn

Oh dear, last night I lost a friend
He went into the fire
perhaps he’ll reaches a better place,
Perhaps we’ll meet again.
I wonder how the children are
I miss their softly smiles.
Sometimes I dream of the harvest rain
But the battle still goes on.

Yesterday I saw a picture
of the minister of war
in his lily white shirt and tie he asked
for more young blood by law.
And they got our oldest son
and he went your way
and the minister in the news did say
for freedom there’s a price to pay

chorus:

And the autumn has come
and the wind is waving the corn
as she got a machine letter
“For our freedom they did fall”
And she asks herself “What freedom takes a mother’s son?’
So we lose the best and hail the rest and the harvest rain does fall

I’ll probably just leave it to the music and the lyrics to explain why …

What’s curious about it is that Dies Natalis, the band, is a German Neofolk band that, like probably every Neofolk band, is considered on the far right side of the political scale. At least that’s what people in Germany say. As a matter of fact it hasn’t happened only once that Dies Natalis were made to cancel concerts because of fear of their “Nazi” audience.

I wonder why neither German authorities nor those certain parts of their audience ever take the time to really listen to the lyrics …

cheers

Migdalit

A Fresh Start

I have been awake for quite a while this morning. Because of some pretty exciting news on he one hand but, on the other hand, probably as well because of things running wild in my mind.

When I started this blog in the beginning of 2008 I did so because I had found once the reverse cultural shock after coming back from Israel had diminished to the point of me actually being able to talk about Israel and what I had seen and experienced there, nobody was there to listen anymore. However what I was still finding out about the place had to get out; that’s probably what has driven people to write ever since.

This blog has given me a lot although, frankly, it has never quite attracted a crowd. Sad enough it were times of war that people found this blog and after the “show” was over most of them never returned. There are still many stories to tell, new and old ones. Stories that have to be told in the hope that one day it will be there to be read for somebody who’s interested. Just like the stories of other great bloggers where there to be read by me when I needed the information or the opinion or just the story so I didn’t feel that alone after I left a place that had made me feel at home.

Fact is, however, that during the two years of this blog my life has changed. I started this blog as an ambitious single student who had left Israel only in order to return. Today I am a grad school graduate, who has been transplanted to Germany for love and what had, at that time, looked like a Great New Life. I have, over the years, hurtfully learned to let go of Israel keeping the treasurous memories in my very heart and soul knowing that the time there has changed me forever. Had I an honest opportunity to return I’d probably leave here for good any minute but I have had to learn that this is not what life had planned for me – at least not for the time being.

Germany has changed me as well. As much warmth and welcoming I had found in Israel as much coldness and fear have I found in Germany. In the one and a half years I’ve been living here now I’ve made it all the way from confusion via depression to feeling sorry and grateful that I know life can be different. In a way, I feel, Germany has taught me that it is worth fighting for my Israel-self. This is how life always has a lesson to teach, even when you really aren’t looking for yet another lesson.

No, I’m not done with Israel. I’ve been collecting information on so many topics all the time – I just never got to publish it. Life has kept me busy with other things and Germany and what I have seen here has kept my mind busy with other topics as well. Topics I’ve always felt don’t fit this blog. However I don’t believe in exclusive decisions. I will keep up this blog, but I also found I have to move on and I need a space to do this.

I don’t yet know where “a Pagan Israelophile goes Australia” will take me and what it will be all about. It is my story, our story, after all. It is a journey I have been looking forward to for a while and, in many respects, have been scared of as well. However I have made it my Beltaine resolution that I will be working towards regaining my trust in the gods and the path they are leading me down.

My two blogs will be interconnected by RSS feeds, so if you’re interested in the other blog it will be easy to keep an eye on it without having to surf yet another blog.

with a crying and a laughing eye, as well as warm thanks to everybody who contributed to this blog in the last two years

yours,

Migdalit

This is Germany – Introducing Hartz IV

Want another one about Germany? Sure, here we go:

For many foreigners Germany, as most of Europe in general, is perceived as an oasis of social responsibility and welfare. It seems to be a place US Americans dreaming of a universal health insurance are pointing at as an example and people all around the place dream of coming to the country where the government will tend for them and they’ll never have a serious problem in their lives again.

I grew up the same. I grew up knowing in the depth of my heard that I’d never have to starve or be cold or lack a roof upon my head if life hit me hard. The state would care for me no matter what and it would help me to get back on track. I can only guess that for a German it must have been the same, though I think that Austria has always gone the social road a few footsteps farther than Germany.

What most foreigners do not know about Germany, however, is what has happened here during the last decade. It probably started as early as 1990 when Germany got heroically reunited and the halves of the country where re-merged into one as fast as possibly without any reconsideration. When the Eastern German economy broke down millions of unemployed without much chances for a job had to be cared for and billions of tax D-Mark went into Eastern Germany, mostly being suck up by Western German companies before the random Eastern German saw any of it. When the first decade of the new, shared country came to an end it had become obvious to the government (social democrats and the green party at that time) that the vast number of unemployed would not diminish and costs for social welfare spent on long-term unemployed were exploding.

A new form of social welfare was brought into existence as an ambitious idea of „boost and challenge“. A newly founded ARGE, a common working group of bureau for employment and social services, was to apply push and pull factors on unemployed in order to get them back into a proper occupation. And instead of old-fashioned social welfare Hartz IV was brought into life. Interestingly enough the man it was named after, Peter Hartz, nearly went to jail for business crimes.

It isn’t quite easy to explain what Hartz IV is all about. Perhaps this is its core problem: it consists of a very big set of rules and regulations as for who is eligible for what and who not, as well as penalties for those turning down jobs or not taking part in educational measures. Basically people get a small amount of money – between 300 and 400 Euro for a single person – that can be subject to cuts, and people can apply for a million of additional options from aid on rent to clothing, furniture etc. Basically nobody really knows what is there to be had and what not. Besides of this mass of formularies and the same authority being in charge of unemployment and well fare money, another important change for people was that they now need to spend their personal savings before they are eligible for Hartz IV. So if you become unemployed in Germany today you’ll receive unemployment payments, pretty similar to the system in other European countries and pre-Hartz IV Germany, for a given time span – depending on how long you have been employed before. After this time span instead of social welfare money you can apply for Hartz IV if you can prove quite a bunch of things including that you have no personal savings to live on left.

During the last decade a giant and incredibly expensive agency has been built doing, in short, little less than spying on Hartz IV „customers“. If you get Hartz IV the agency needs to know everything about you. And of course its agents don’t object interfering with your life. I have already stated that there is nothing to prevent the agency from making you accept a job in the other side of Germany and then letting you alone with handling the relocation if you are unlucky.

Perhaps it could be supposed that German Hartz IV recipients have meanwhile divided into two groups: Those, often second generation unemployed, who have given up any other option then living on government money and have therefor developed quite a bunch of strategies to get the most of the money. There have been enough of those people brought to proudly tell in front of a TV camera how they don’t intend to ever work because they wouldn’t have any more than anyway. Being on the hunt for those, the government has tried to put even more pressure on unemployed but it sometimes seems like those people are always ahead of every new measure finding a way around it.

And then there is the other group. Those who really do want to get out of Hartz IV and live on their own again. Those, who don’t know the tricks and have to live on little more than a good 300 € + rent paid by the government. People that don’t eat any vegetables or fruits anymore for they simply can’t afford them. People that don’t know where to take the money for their children’s textbooks or field trip from. Many of them seem to be chance-less in Germany’s labour market and the agency, if any, only makes it more difficult to them. Desperate with Hartz IV people are pressurized into the most crazy jobs with temp agencies or uninsured 400 €-jobs giving up everything, first of all their humanity, for any kind of a job.

You don’t need to hold an MBA to know what happened: Salaries went down rapidly as did the number of regular full-term unlimited contracts. Companies rather hire a couple of 400 €-workers than one full-time contracted person and unlimited full-time contracts are becoming rare and badly paid especially for young people.Germany has reached a point where many can’t make a living on a 40 hours full-time-job anymore and have to be supported by the government; there are people out there earning even less money from their full-time job then unemployed get through Hartz IV. Which some nudnikim of course see as an argument that Hartz IV is still too high, which is the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard.

In a way Hartz IV is slowly destroying the country and the fear caused by it brings down what was left of social behavior. It has been discussed all the time since its implementation, even the supreme court has ordered changes so it would fit Germany’s basic law, and with all these changes and additions all it does is getting even more and more complicated. Around here, in Germany, children are raised in poverty, again, without much odds for improvement. Hartz IV is handed down from generation to generation with no money to support children’s education or chances on the labour market.

This is Germany, the social security save haven in 2010.

yours,

Migdalit

protecting families

Hey everybody,

So, I’m living in Germany for the moment, so why don’t write a little bit about Germany. Who says, in the end, that it have to be those kick ass exotic locations expats have to write about?

Germany, like other European countries, has included the protection of the family in its basic law. Reality, however, looks different. Reality here is tough. There would be the definition of a „family“ in the first place. Right now there’s quite a hullabaloo going on about Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s (male) life partner accompanying him whenever possible – even paying for the stay himself. Of course, homosexuality still is a difficult topic in Germany, where equality is achieved slowly and with many drawbacks. Public opinion is, at best, still controversial. It for sure is remarkable that in a climate like that Mr Westerwelle hasn’t only come out on the issue, but as well chosen to remain living his relationship as what it is, the most natural thing in the world, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in Autumn 2009.

However the problem of „defintion“ of a family of course isn’t limited on homosexual relationships. For one whilst in other countries, such as Australia or South Africa the „defacto marriage“ has become acknowledged for, for instance, visa issues German authorities have chosen a different approach: They label something „family“ depending on whether it benefits them. So if two people obtaining social welfare money („Hartz IV“) are sharing an apartment they are considered partners meaning that they get less money per person then would they live alone. This leads to situations as curios as room mates not being accepted for social welfare because the other room-mate (!) has an income. And as this also applies for alimony, room mates have, as well, found themself transferring money to their ex-room mates as ordered by court because court found them partners for no more then the fact that they chose to share an apartment.

On the other hand if the acknowledgement of a partnership would mean the state having to give or let go of money nothing short of a valid (and best of German) marriage certificate will get people the status of being „a family“. This is true for migration issues (going as far as European Union internal migration), tax issues and all kind of assistance a family might be suspect to. There just is no such thing as a „defacto marriage“ in German legal terminology. Thus if I ever happened to be unemployed in Germany I would likely find myself in the situation of having to marry my boyfriend so he could insure me and in order to avoid possible deportation (!) from Germany because accompanying of a life partner is not a valid reasons for intra-EU migration.

Companies, however, aren’t that focused on marriage certificates. My boyfriend and me can get a shared insurance and stuff. And for the rest of it it’s mostly a matter of good luck and HR person’s mood anyhow. One declared the whole furniture of our apartment belonging to me and tried to pressurize us into being happy we got as much as a car to transport the stuff – which she didn’t get away with. For that person as „only“ a life partner I wasn’t existant whatsoever. During the next relocation with another HR person of the same company in charge little difference was made between me and a legally married spouse. But, other than during relocation no. 1 she was very helpful from the beginning whilst HR person no. 1 was a pain in the ass to begin with.

And then companies and the state alike have long given up any idea of „protection of the family“. For instance the „Agentur für Arbeit“ (Bureau of Occupation) has been known for making unemployed moms accept jobs on the other side of Germany regardless of extended families, therefor important assistance for that single mom, being ripped apart. Having one spouse accept a job hundreds of kilometers away, so all he sees of his family is when he drives home for the weekend, is considered pretty normal by both government agencies and companies applying deeply family unfriendly relocation policies. Nobody can tell me this is considered „protection of the family“.

Families are ripped apart without reconsideration and without much possibilities to object however state and companies have little to offer to fill the voids caused thereby. I’ve seen plenty of young moms trapped with their children because stranded in a strange town without the slightest assistance they have nobody to look for their children even for some hours. And this is not talking about kindergarten opening hours, which have nothing to do with adult’s working hours. In fact in today’s Germany you can feel lucky as much as obtaining a place at the kindergarten and this with personnel being paid so badly that they have been on strike twice since we moved here.

Probably I should state here that this is far from being an exclusively German problem. Marrying in Israel, for instance, where only marriages by religious officials, haredim, if Jewish, are legal, can be a problem to secular or non-Jewish Israelis and definition problems of „family“ are pretty the same in Austria – in other European countries unmarried couples have even less rights than in Germany / Austria. However it seems to me that whilst in Austria cases where that kind of approach really did destroy families are seldom to be found, in Germany they are considered normal. If I complain about my boyfriend’s company’s transferring policy giving me a hard time and probably forcing me into a decision between my life partner (thus family) and my career (or me working at all) I am constantly looked at like I was a green-skinned alien. And if my eyes nearly come falling out when somebody – once more – tells me about families being ripped apart all I get from Germans nearby is a blank look.

This is the one thing I don’t get about Germans: Why have they given up themselves? Why have they allowed themselves to become so afraid of their own shadow they don’t dare to see anymore that most of the shit happening in this place was caused by no less than themselves?

yours,

Migdalit

I Ain’t German!

Hey guys,

I’m still going through a terrible time here. Germany and me just won’t find a common stance. After having lived in a country as strange as Israel, with all these issues I never had to think about before all around me and still finding so much happiness and joy there, it comes as a shock to move next door, from Austria to Germany, and feel like I came there all the way from Mars. Especially given that I have already lived in Bavaria for two years and, though there have been issues about identity and feeling accepted during those final months, have never felt such a complete stranger back then.

It’s not about Germans not knowing how to take care of this year’s masses of snow. It’s not about Germans not knowing how to drive a car in hilly land either. Those are actually the things about Germany that make me giggle. Perhaps because it boosts my patriotism, perhaps because it makes them look so human – or perhaps both of all. When you move abroad you expect things and people to be different after all.

Perhaps, I am pondering these days, a part of the ongoing issue between Germany and me is just about this: How people don’t see Austrians aren’t Germans. We seem to be so similar on the first glimpse. We speak the same language and a lot of our customs, the way we dress looks similar. We share quite a few pages of history too. So maybe when you are an Austrian living in Germany people just expect you to fit in. To assimilate instead of integrate. And with “people” I mean those on either side of the border. The border, that in a way, doesn’t exist anymore since the Schengen accords that opened Europe up to people and goods.

The truth is Austrians aren’t Germans. It’s not politically correct to speak about differences these days. I don’t care. Austrians aren’t Germans as little as Bavarians are Saxons as little as Upper Austrians are Viennese. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in places like the US, in places like Israel or South Africa where people relocating from one side of the continent to another a couple of times during their live is everyday business. In Middle Europe it does matter. In Middle Europe people don’t know what it is like to be the new gal in town. People don’t understand how hard it is to find friends if you haven’t gone to school in this place, if you haven’t played in the same sand pit as the other kids. After more than a year back to Germany and three relocations during these 13 months I still have no clue how to meet people my age and how to make friends in Germany. I haven’t yet found out where they meet or how I could approach them without scaring them away, for every social activity in Germany seems to be knitted after a harsh set of rules I do not know. But people don’t know about that. They think as an Austrian I am as good as a German (apart from these guys who still think Austrians climbed out of their caves just some years ago) and they expect I do know about German society rules. But I don’t.

I’m not going into what was better in Israel or South Africa or such. It’s no use. Sure, if I could I would just pack my things, board the next plane to Tel Aviv and sit in Gan HaYarkon crying until the world feels alright again. I did that 16 months ago, so I know what I’m talking about. Right now, however, I have to face that I am trapped in the one country that probably fits my personality least. I have to face that I have to make the most out of it for the time being. There will be a day when I’ll be able to sit at strange river again and cry until there are no tears left. For simple relief that it’s over. Until then I’ll have to confuse Germans with my smile. Until then I’ll have to learn those zillions of unspoken rules – so I can break them in the most elegant way. And when I leave this town perhaps some people will have found out that Austrians aren’t Germans.

yours,

Migdalit

Shimon Peres’ Address to the German Bundestag

Shalom everybody,

Today I found a final opportunity to go with the special quality of blogging: Having it published just after it happened.

I happened to turn to ARD – German public television – just at the right time to hear and see the address by Shimon Peres in the German Parliament, the Bundestag. A speech that moved me in so many way I wanted to share it right ahead. Perhaps I’ll add some thoughts of my own later on but for the moment it’s just Peres’ words:

I stand here before you, as the President of the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish People.

While my heart is breaking at the memory of the atrocious past – my eyes envision a common future for a world that is young, a world free of all hatred.

A world in which the words “war” and “anti-Semitism” will be dead words.

Distinguished gathering,

In the Jewish tradition that accompanies us for thousands of years, there exists a prayer in Aramaic recited when mourning the dead, in memory of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.

The mothers, whose infants were torn from their arms, and the fathers, who watched in horror as their children were pushed into the gas chambers and their children go up in the smoke of the crematoriums, did not have the time to recite nor to listen to this ancient prayer.

On this occasion, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to recite this prayer, here and now, in the name of the Jewish people, in memory of, and in honor of, the six million Jews who turned to ashes:

“יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּששְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא
בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ
וְיַמְלִיךְמַלְכוּתֵהּ
וְיַצְמַח פּוּרְקַנֵה וִיקָרֵבמְשִׁיחֵה
בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן וּבְחַיֵּידְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.”

“Exalted and hallowed be His great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.  May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Messiah in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.”

And the prayer ends with the words which became a symbol in the State of Israel, a dream in the Jewish world:

“He, who makes peace in His Heights, may He, in his compassion, make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.  And they responded: Amen.”

My Friends, the leaders of the German people and its representatives,

In the State of Israel, and across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living. Their numbers are daily diminishing.

And at the same time, men and women, who took part in the most odious activity on earth – that of genocide – still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.

My request of you is:  Please do everything to bring them to justice.

This is not revenge in our eyes. This is an educational lesson. This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be. That they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place, and that they never, absolutely never, have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option, other than peace, reconciliation and love.

Today, the International Remembrance Day for the victims of the Holocaust is the day on which the sun shone for the first time sixty-five years ago, after six evil years, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people.

On that same day, the smoke still rose above the bombed incinerators, and the blood-stains and ashes still heavily lay on the soil of the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The train-station platform was silent. And the “selection ramp” was empty of people. On the monstrous field of slaughter settled a deceptive atmosphere of tranquility.

The ear caught only the quiet, yet from the depth of the frozen ground emanated a scream that broke human hearts, and ascended to the passive and silent heavens.

On January 27th, 1945, the world awoke to the fact, somewhat too late, that six million Jews were no longer among the living.

This day not only represents a memorial day for the victims, not only the pangs of conscience of humankind in the face of the incomprehensible atrocity that took place, but also of the tragedy that derived from the procrastination in taking action.

This constitutes the lesson learnt from the world’s inattention in the face of the rising flames, and the killing machine that operated day after day, year after year, with no opposition.

Three years beforehand, on January 20th, 1942, not far from here, in “Villa Wannsee,” on the shores of the beautiful lake, a group of senior officers and bureaucrats, headed by Reinhard Heydrich, convened to devise and coordinate the “Final Solution” plan for the “Jewish Question.”

Adolf Eichmann diligently worked on a document that identified the target population intended for deportation and extermination.

It encompassed all the Jews in the European continent. From the three million living in Poland, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union, to the two hundred Jews living in tiny Albania.

Eleven million Jews were marked to die.

The Nazis performed an effective job, and from Wannsee the path led to Auschwitz, to the gas-chambers and the incinerators.

I stand before you on this day and in this place, distinguished leaders and representatives of a different Germany, democratic, as the representative of the State of the Jews, of the State of the Survivors, of the State of Israel.

I am humbled by the significance of this daunting and elevated position.  I believe and hope that you feel as I do.

I can see in my mind’s eye, at this very moment, the imposing image of my deeply respected grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, handsome and dignified.

I was blessed to have been his beloved grandson.

He was my guide and mentor.

He was the one who taught me Torah. I see him with his white beard and dark eyebrows, enveloped in his Tallith (praying shawl), among the congregation praying in the synagogue, in the town where I was born, Vishniev in Belarus.

I wrapped myself in the folds of his Tallith, and with much emotion listened to his clear and lovely voice.  It is still ringing in my ears, as he recited the Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur, in the hours and the moments when, according to our belief, the Creator of the world determines who to life and who to death.

I still remember him at the train station from which I, an 11-year-old child, started on my journey from my village to Eretz Israel.

I remember his poignant embrace. I remember the last words and the order that heard from his mouth: “My boy, always remain a Jew!”

The train whistled and started on its way.

I continued watching my grandfather until he disappeared from sight.

That was the last time I saw him.

When the Nazis came to Vishniev, they ordered all the members of the community to congregate in the synagogue.

My grandfather marched in front, together with his family, wrapped in the same Tallith in which I enveloped myself as a kid. The doors were locked from the outside and the wooden structure was torched. And the only remains of the whole community were embers.

There were no survivors.

Distinguished gathering,

The Holocaust raises painful questions that touch on the infinite depth of a man’s soul.

To which depth can the evil in man sink? And to which extent can a people that knew culture and respected intellect, remain silent?

What kind of atrocities can be performed? How much can a moral compass be silenced? A rational deliberation be crushed? How can a nation consider itself to be “a superior race” and others inferior?

And the question still remains today why did the Nazis see in the existence of Jews a great and immediate danger?

What induced them to invest in the killing machine such extensive resources?

What motivated the Nazis to continue operating with such determination to the very end, even though their defeat had already appeared on the horizon?

Was a Jewish power threatening to block the “thousand-year Reich?” Could the persecuted people, crushed by the boot of the oppressor, stop the destructive war machine of the Nazis?

How many divisions were at the disposal of the Jewish communities in Europe? How many tanks, war-planes, guns?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nazi rabid hatred cannot be solely defined as “anti-Semitic.”

This is a commonly-used definition.  It does not fully explain the burning, murderous, beastly drive that motivated the Nazi regime, and their obsessive resolve to annihilate the Jews.

The war’s objective was to conquer Europe; not to settle scores with Jewish history.

And if we constituted, we the Jews, a terrible threat in the eyes of Hitler’s regime, this was not a military threat, but rather a moral threat.

An opposition to the desire that denied our faith that every man is born in the image of God, that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that all men are equal.

A Jew, even when unable to defend himself, will still sanctify God’s name, and fulfill the commandments.

Since the day when the Jewish nation was founded, we have been commanded: “Thou shall not kill!” “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself!” “Seek peace and pursue it!” – in every situation, in every place.

This naïve Jew, who believes in these commandments, I now see in front of me, in the form of my good grandfather, the most honest and beloved of men.

The Nazis tried to demonize him.

They burned him and his brothers alive. The flames burned their corpses. But not their spirit.

They tried to depict my people in horrible propaganda films and on the pages of “The Stürmer” as parasites, sewer-rats, and the propagators of illnesses.

The Nazis tried to forget, and induce others to forget, the values of justice and mercy.

As a Jew, I always carry the pain of the holocaust endured by my brothers and sisters. As an Israeli, I regret the tragic delay in the establishment of the Jewish State that left my people with no safe harbor.

As a grandfather, I cannot come to terms with the loss of one and a half million children – the greatest human and creative potential that could have changed Israel’s destiny.

I am proud that we are the arch-enemy of Nazi evil.

I am proud of the legacy of our forefathers, diametrically opposed to the doctrine of racism.

I am proud of the revival of Israel, the moral and historic answer to the attempt to erase the Jewish People from the face of the earth.

I thank the Lord that peoples rose and crushed the madness, the evil and cruelty.

The Holocaust must always be prominent in our minds and in the conscience of humanity, and serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity.

As a binding decree to uphold the sanctity of life, equality among men, freedom and peace.

The murder of Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany should not be seen as a kind of astrophysical “Black Hole,” that ingests the past as well as the future.

The Holocaust must not become a barrier against faith in decency, in hope and in life.

I ask myself today how would the European Jews have wanted us to remember them? Only through the smoke of the incinerators? Or to also remember life before the Holocaust?

If there is a collective voice for the millions of European Jews, this voice calls upon us to look ahead. To be what the victims could have been and were not.  To create anew what we lost when they were annihilated.

The contribution of German Jewry, who identified with their country, to fields such as culture, science, the economy, and the standing of Germany as a whole, was extensive, out of proportion with the size of the community.

In the thousand years of their existence, the Jews of Europe moved with the forces of Europe’s advances.

From the golden era of Spain to the golden era of Germany.

The Jews of Europe were instrumental in advancing and developing the spheres of science, technology, the economy, literature and the arts of this continent.

This they achieved because when they were banished from their countries, they were forced into a nomadic life. They were

well-versed in literature, multi-lingual merchants, a people blessed with  doctors, writers, scientists and artists. Many of them played prominent roles in Germany’s culture and contributed to the world at large.

I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous stream of visionaries and inventors that burst forth from the foundations of the Jewish towns, the Jewish ghettos. From the homes of the Jewish bourgeoisie, when Jews were permitted to enter the gates of the universities.

As with the stroke of a wand, there appeared Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Marx, Herman Cohen, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Heine, Moshe Mendelson, Rosa Luxemburg, Walther Rathenau, Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin.

Common to these dissimilar people is their tremendous contribution to human thinking, their contribution to modernism in their own exceptional way.

They guided the sight of Europe and the world to a new future.

And now we are left with the decisive lesson: “Never again” – never again a racist doctrine.

Never again the feeling of superiority.

Never again a so-called divine authority to incite, murder, scorn the law, deny God and the Holocaust.

Never again ignore blood-thirsty dictators, hiding behind demagogical masks, who utter murderous slogans.

The threats to annihilate a people and a nation are voiced in the shadow of weapons of mass-destruction, which are held by irresponsible hands, by irrational thinking and in an untruthful language.

To prevent another holocaust, we must educate our children to respect human life and to promote relations between peoples based on peace.

Respect individual cultures and universal values, turn every time anew to the Ten Commandments.

Unlock scientific secrets with lit torches, microscopes and telescopes, to advance into the realm of new remedies for human beings and their souls. Food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, air to breathe. Knowledge for humankind.

As the British Mandate came to an end, David Ben-Gurion, leader of the newly revived Jewish nation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Arabs rejected the U.N. resolution and their armies attacked Israel.

Indeed, a few hours after its Declaration of Independence, seven Arab armies invaded Israel, with the object of destroying it even before it was established.

We faced them alone. With no allies, with our backs to the last shores of hope that the Jewish People still maintained.

Had we been defeated in war, this could have been the end of our people.

The IDF won this desperate battle, in which historical justice and human heroism joined forces. Holocaust survivors were already serving in the IDF, and some of them fell in the line of duty.

The small Israel, while it was still licking its wounds, immediately opened its gates to the remnants of the Holocaust survivors and the multitude of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All other gates were closed to them.

Distinguished gathering,

We remember that as we were still bleeding from our wounds, help came from an unexpected quarter, from the new Germany.

Two leaders, prominent in the annals of history, stretched their hands out one to the other, from the two sides of the abyss:

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the father of the Democratic Federation of Germany, and David Ben-Gurion, the founding father and first prime minister of the State of Israel.

On September 27th, 1951, from the Bundestag podium, Adenauer spoke about the responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Third Reich against the Jewish people, and the intention of his government to devise a compensation agreement for the loss of Jewish property and help in the revival process of Israel.

The decision of the government of Israel to hold direct negotiations with the German government provoked a stormy reaction thus far never experienced.

Holocaust victims with death camp numbers embedded in their arms were among the stone-throwers at the Knesset and there were those who sided with Ben-Gurion.

Ben-Gurion stood by his decision: there is a new Germany. With it we have to discuss the future, not only the past.

The distressed Knesset gave its consent.

The restitution payments helped in Israel’s economic recovery and contributed to its accelerated development.

It was my privilege at the time, as a young man, to serve as his assistant, and later as Ben-Gurion’s deputy at the Ministry of Defense.  I learned that while Israel was building its home, it also had to defend its sons.

Also here we found an attentive German ear, providing us with defense equipment.

Unique ties developed between Germany and Israel.

The friendship that was established did not develop at the expense of forsaking the memory of the Holocaust, but from the memory of the dark hours of the past. In view of the joint and decisive decision to look ahead – towards the horizon of optimistic hope. Tikkun Olam – putting the world aright.

The bridge built across the ravine was built by painful hands and shoulders that were carrying the burden of memory. It rested on strong moral foundations.

We built a living memorial for our brothers and sisters. With ploughshares that turned the arid desert into thriving orchards.

With laboratories that generated new life. With defense forces able to defend our survival. On the pillars of an uncompromising democracy.

We believed, and continue to believe, that the new Germany will be doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that the Jewish state will never again have to fight for its survival alone.

That murderous and condescending dictatorships will never again raise their heads, in our era.

David Ben-Gurion, who predicted a different Germany, was right.

Thank you.

From Konrad Adenauer, who found a common language with David Ben-Gurion, and Willy Brandt, who kneeled in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto heroes, and you, Members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, from Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, and other leaders, you strengthened the foundations and ties of friendship.

And institutions, financial organizations, cultural centers, intellectuals and doers, who contributed to the enrichment of these unique relations.

You, President Horst Köhler, you declared at the Knesset in Jerusalem that “the responsibility for the Holocaust is part of the German identity.” We very much appreciate this.

And you, Madam Chancellor, Angela Merkel, you have conquered the hearts of our nation with your sincerity and your warmth. You said to the American Senate and House of Representatives that “an attack on Israel will equate an attack on Germany.” We shall not forget this.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Close to sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel.

We have withstood the test of nine wars.

We reached two peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

We gave back that which fell into our hands in the wars to the countries with whom we made peace.

We remained a country small in size and poor in raw material.

Our land is barren, yet we were still successful in developing a model agriculture esteemed by many to be one of the best in the world.

We compensated for the lack of natural resources with cutting-edge scientific and technological advances that have brought us to the forefront of scientific developments. These accomplishments make up for the smallness of our land.

We have seen an ingathering of exiles. The major part of the Jewish people today lives in Israel.

We have regained our language.

We are the only country in the region in which its citizens speak the same language that was spoken four thousand years ago – the Hebrew language, the language of the Bible.

Jewish history continues to move forward on two parallel tracks:

The moral track, encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. The document which was written some three thousand years ago, has not required any change and has become the basis of western culture.

And the scientific track, which unravels hidden secrets and breaks genetic codes, concealed in the past from the eyes of men and which, unraveled, change our lives.

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.  In it some million and a half Arab citizens live with equal rights. We shall not allow discrimination against anyone on account of their nationality or faith.

We overcame the global economic crisis and have returned to growth.

Our culture is modern and traditional at one and the same time.

Israeli democracy is ebullient. Without a dull moment.  It never remains idle, not even in times of war.

Israel’s victories did not eliminate the dangers it faces. We do not crave for land which is not ours.  We do not wish to rule other peoples. But do we have the right to close our eyes.

Our national ambition is distinct and clear, to make peace with our neighbors.

Israel supports the principle of the “two state solution”.

We paid a price in wars, we did not hesitate to also pay a price for peace.

Also today we are prepared to relinquish territories to achieve peace with the Palestinians and to enable them to establish an independent, prosperous and peaceful state.

Like our neighbours, we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt against dictatorship and violence.

Like them we reject a fanatic regime, which contradicts the United Nations Charter.  A regime which threatens destruction, accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in its country and in other countries.

This regime is a danger to the entire world.

We want to learn from the Europeans, who unshackled Europe from a thousand years of war, and bitterness and enabled Europe’s young to substitute the hostility of their forefathers by brotherhood.

It would be wise to learn from their experience, to dream about a Middle East in which its countries will depart from the conflicts of their parents on behalf of peace for their children.

Establish a modern regional economy that would fight new and common challenges: Hunger, desertification, sickness and terror.

Promote scientific cooperation to improve the standard of living and secure quality of life.

The common god of all is the god of peace, not the god of war.

Distinguished gathering,

I stand here before you as a man who believes that it is in your power, and in our power, to contribute to the creation of a new history.

Threats on Israel will not divert its heart from peace.

I believe that peace is attainable.

I stand here before you as the son of a people that aspires to contribute in every way they can to attain a world which is enlightened and lucid, where men will act as human beings to human beings.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day of communion and reflection.

An hour of education and hope.

I started with Kaddish and will end with the Hatikva:

“עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָהתִּקְוָתֵנוּ
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁיבְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.”

“In the Jewish heart, a Jewish spirit still sings,
And the eyes look east, toward Zion,
Our hope is not lost, our hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Permit us, allow yourselves, to dream and realize the dreams.

source: German Bundestag

Being a Stranger

Shalom there,

quite a while ago, when DoppelpassSchmetterlingsfrau said farewell to her blog’s readers, and when I read that last article about how even after years she still felt like a stranger in Israel and, ultimately, returned back home to Germany feeling at home at last, I had a deep look into my own feelings in Israel and just couldn’t help but assume  something terrible must have happened to her to make her feel that unwelcome. After all, her conclusion was something like when you lived in a foreign country, for any given time, either you accept that you will never truly belong there, or you face that you eventually have to move back home. Strange enough this seemed to be the typical argumentation anti-immigration, only voiced by a (former) migrant.

Perhaps my own experience of very quickly feeling somehow Israeli-ish doesn’t count, for it was just too short, but then there are people like Lila or Beer7 who have been living in Israel long enough to raise their family there and, no matter how hard I try, I could never read a single line suggesting that they were anything but happy with their decision. So the topic kept me thinking. And of course this is the direct track to Middle Europe‘s – existing or constructed – migration problem. Migration, of course, in both directions, as in Europeans emigrating from their countries of origin, as well als people immigrating into Middle Europe. Where, according to Schmetterlingsfrau’s conclusions, integration of migrants could never be achieved.

I do belong to those people who feel Middle Europe is too small for them for one reason of another. Just recently I had a discussion with A., a friend in Vienna who, very like Schmetterlingsfrau, suggested I’d eventually return to Middle Europe because of being too blue-eyed and exclusively belonging here anyway so I better stayed in the first place. Of course I heavily disagreed. But the remark got me thinking even more heavily.

The longer I considered Schmetterlingsfrau’s words, the more sense they did make to me, in the end. There is another part in her article, besides “go back home!“. There’s that part telling you “you’ll never become 100% Israeli / whatever”. Perhaps this is the key! Not dismissing one’s identity of origin even if living in another country for years and decades. Becoming something like 50% Austrian and 50% Israeli. After all one’s cultural identity of origin does heavily shape a person. Why deny it? With my work in Israel, acting as a bridge between Austria and Israel, this came to me very naturally and never appeared to be special. Just like Lila’s and Beer7’s way of keeping contact with Germany by means of their blogs. But if I take a look around I see I was wrong. How many people have been migrating and thinking they leave it all behind? And how many of them have eventually despaired and returned to their country of origin’s identity altogether?

If you have a look around in Austria’s migrant’s families pre ~1990 this can be pretty clearly seen. Austria, as the one country in the very heard of Europe, does have a very long tradition of immigration. Just have a look at the names of people. Vranitzky isn’t exactly German-sounding after all. However Austrian migrant families have managed to integrate into Austrian society, whilst what today’s so-called migration politic is all about is not about integration but about assimilation, even though they might call it integration. About becoming 100% Austrian / German / whatever, which just won’t ever possibly work. You can’t leave behind the best part of your life, just because of taking on another citizenship. But you can become a part of both societies and cultures. You can be Austrian and Israeli or German and Turkish at one time.

And if you’d ask me there’s nothing more fun for a kid then roaming a schoolmate’s Turkish-Austrian birthday party with his mother cooking all those delicious Turkish stuff with random Austrian mainstream music in the background in a house that is … well, just 50/50.

YUMMI!

yours,

Migdalit