GIF hosts the Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK) for a reception on the occasion of their solidarity mission to Israel
GIF was delighted to host distinguished representatives from the Kultusministerkonferenz and Stateministers of Germany during a reception to mark their solidarity mission to Israel.
Prof. Tamar Hermann (Israel Democracy Insitute) and Idan Almong (Reichman University) joined the evening with insightful remarks.
Following to the remarks by GIF director Eric Zimmerman:
Good evening, ladies, and gentlemen. Your excellencies.
My name is Eric Zimmerman. I am the director of GIF – the German Israeli foundation for scientific research. It is my distinct privilege to welcome you to a short session before dinner. I know you have had two intense days and an early departure tomorrow morning.
- Thank you to my dear friend, Mr Udo Michalik, for inviting us. We have much more to do together.
- Thank you to the Ministry of Education for allowing us this opportunity.
- Thank you, lastly, but certainly not lastly, to each of you for journeying to Israel this week.
The ongoing war in Israel is very difficult for all. Many of us have children, family & friends called up to immediate reserve and active duty. Many of us know victims of the October 7 pogrom; Israel is a country with zero degrees of separation. All of us live under daily sirens. We are attending funerals and making shiva house calls.
I myself come here today straight from burying a neighbor, the childhood friend of my youngest daughter. The mother is the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture. We are a small country. A close-knit family.
Since the war began, science in Israel has come to a halt. It has come to a virtual stand-still. Foreigners have left, Israelis are either called into reserves or must take care of their children at home. Our sadness is compounded by the antisemitic demonstrations we see world-wide. It is hard to comprehend how after the 7 October pogrom so many people cry for our elimination.
In ~75 days we in Israel have had few opportunities to raise a glass of wine. There has been too little to be happy about. Our young men and women are fighting in battle. Many are still held hostage. Friendship, though, is an opportunity to take a break from our sadness. Also, with the holiday season upon us, please, accept my very best wishes to you and yours, for happy holidays and a better, healthier, and safer 2024.
I wish to offer a toast to our partnership. To our personal and institutional relationships. Please, join me in raising a glass to us, to our joint future – in education, science, and much more. Also, we keep in our thoughts our soldiers, first responders, and hostages in Gaza. L’chaim. To life.
I am trying hard not to compare the Nazi atrocities of WW2 to Hamas. I do wish to share two thoughts, though: After studying the Shoah deeply for many years, I came to the realization that the more I knew, the less I comprehended how such evil was possible. This is true today as well, when thinking of the Hamas atrocities. Secondly, more importantly, I understand that when good people remain silent, atrocities occur.
My visits to Germany these past two months have shown me deep unwavering solidarity.
- There is strong identification with us, our successes, and challenges.
- There is an understanding unmatched by other nations.
- Beyond that, I have felt a true sense of shared mourning.
- Indeed, our unique relationship is of a shared destiny.
- In our work at the Foundation, we see this every day.
- We hear a clear, strong voice from the federal and state governments.
- Thank you.
Israel is a country of immigrants. With so many voices these past 10 weeks calling for the cessation of Israel as an independent state I thought I would share my story. Recently, my wife and I marked 35 years since we moved to Israel from New York City, with our 4-month young first-born child in tow. On the plane (coincidentally) we sat next to a family who would become life-long friends (i.e., family). We left JFK on the eve of “Partition Day”. We landed on Partition Day. A very symbolic day to board a B747 to Lydda. We have raised our 5 children here. We are blessed with 4 children “in-laws”. Our 7 beautiful grandchildren are now growing up here. We know we made the right choice. It would have been easy to stay. We have never questioned our decision. There was no real choice. Has it been easy? Of course not. What in life is easy? Do we have regrets? Only as concerns leaving family. At the end of the day, Jews may live comfortably across the globe. But we have only one true home, where we can wear a kippah with pride and without fear. It has been our privilege to contribute to the new vibrant society. We have our share (and then some) of trying times. But we are strong. We not only survive each hardship; we thrive afterwards. We go from strength to strength. This has been our story for generations.
GIF – the German Israeli Foundation – was established in 1986 by both countries by a formal intergovernmental agreement. We were mandated to support bilateral science. This is what we do. It is not part of what we do. It is all we do. We are the only such structure that I am aware of, in any field or discipline. We have one purpose: to facilitate collaborative research between Germany and Israel.
- 2000 projects
- 300m EUR
- Dozens of meetings and seminars
We have supported no fewer than 17 Nobel laureates, numerous other prestigious medals and prizes. Among our grant recipients are many highly cited scientists.
Over the past three years we have begun to develop significant partnerships:
- With the Bundesländer : NRW, Bavaria, Saxony, BW, Rhineland Palatinate; my hope is for agreements with all 16 States.
- With associations: U15, Helmholtz, Leibniz, Fraunhofer
- With institutions: Charite, Clalit
- With the private sector: this is under examination.
There is much we can and should do together.
There are changing attitudes in our countries towards one another. The unique special relationship cannot be taken for granted. This might be normal. It has been 80 years since the Shoah. Is Germany becoming a distinct migrant society with a diminishing shared ethnic memory? We are diverging on several issues, at least in perception. Is the future of our relationship witnessing challenges? Can we still be sustainable bridge builders? How do we ensure our future as science diplomats? We need to investigate this seriously. I have initiated such a discussion with several colleagues. The 16 States should be partners in this dialog. Please do let me know if I can engage you on this.
Our hard-earned freedom is not to be taken lightly. We cherish it. With it, comes responsibility: to our citizenry. to world Jewry. to the global community of man. This is not the time to be silent. Good men must make their voices heard. Advocacy is not a job for professionals only. We each can use our personal networks and social media channels.
Originally, I was planned to address you today from Yad Vashem. I very much wanted, and still believe, that the relationship between our countries, in science and academia, more than based on our shared past, must be based on futured shared interests and needs.
I do not for a minute minimize the importance of memory. We are biblically commanded to remember key events. But, for me, and for Israel’s founding fathers, looking ahead to the future is no less important than remembering the past. Indeed, as you know, our national anthem is entitled The Hope.
I welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation with you individually or collectively, in Germany, in your state capital or whenever you think best. I invite you to engage with us and support the binational partnership.
GIF is your natural facilitator in Israel.
For the next several minutes I have invited two colleagues to address you. Each brief talk is but a taste of what we can deeply discuss in the future. It will be my honor to work with you to develop seminars or research programs accordingly. There are no PowerPoints this evening. Just old-school conversation. Joining us are:
- Tamar Hermann is senior research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. She is a specialist in public opinion measurement and analysis.
- Idan Almog is the head of the Teaching Innovation unit at Reichman University, whose mission is to shape & realize RU’s vision regarding the future of learning. He will share some thoughts on innovation in education.
For now, I hope you enjoy the next two interactions, also the food and drink.