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Tuesday, 20 June 2017 09:37

On June 15, 2017 the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in the Monastiriotes Synagogue.

«This is very moving to be here in this architectural gem, but more than being a beautiful building, it’s evocative of the great history and the great tragedy that befell the Jews of Greece», said the Israeli Prime Minister upon his arrival, after the choir of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki concluded singing “Yerushalayim shel zahav".

David Saltiel, the President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, welcoming the Israeli Prime Minister, referred to the long history of Jews in Greece, the importance of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, its almost complete annihilation during the Holocaust as well as to the efforts made by the very few survivors to revive the Community from its ashes and make it once again a living and thriving part of the city of Thessaloniki.

He also noted that the Prime Minister’s visit to Greece is of great importance to the Community and comes at an important point in time concerning the Greek – Israeli  relations. Today, after the Holocaust, all eight Jewish communities remaining in Greece, as well as the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, are trying hard to remain highly active organizations. Finally, he underlined the initiative of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki for the creation of the Holocaust Museum of Greece, which will become a world-class monument against racism, changing the horizon of the western entrance to the city and the map of the Holocaust monuments and museums of Europe.

The Israeli Prime Minister, in his speech, stressed that the history of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki is tightly linked to the history of all Jewish people. He commented as follows: «The fire in 1917 destroyed buildings and burned buildings; the Nazi fire burned people».  He said that only the 3% of those who have lived the disaster of the Holocaust managed to survive. He pointed out that many of the surviving Jews of Thessaloniki living in Israel “are carrying" in their hearts love and memories from Thessaloniki. «They remember it as a great center of culture, but also as a personal memory». He cited the example of the Holocaust survivor of Thessaloniki, Moshe Aelion, who each year lights one of the torches at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for the Holocaust victims.

The Israeli Prime Minister mentioned also the “natural alliance of democracies between three real democracies, such as Greece, Cyprus and Israel, but also the achievements of his homeland in various fields. He concluded his speech quoting "Am Yisrael chai" (The people of Israel are alive).

Then, the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece and President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki opened the Ehal. The Presidents of the Jewish Communities of Thessaloniki, Athens and Larissa then carried the Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls) around the Synagogue, while psalms were chanted by Choir of the Community.

The ceremony in the Synagogue was attended by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yannis Amanatidis, the Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, the Chairman of the Municipal Council, Calypso Goula, the member of Parliament of the “Syriza” party and Chairman of the Parliamentary Friendship Committee of Greece and Israel, Dimitris Sevastakis, the  member of Parliament of the “New Democracy” party Kostas Karagounis, the President of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, the head of the Prime Minister's Office in Thessaloniki, Katerina Notopoulou, representatives of Jewish Communities and Organizations in Greece and a large number of Jews from Thessaloniki and other cities.

The Israeli Prime Minister and his wife, Sara, who was deeply moved by the people’s warm welcome in the Synagogue, and the multimember government delegation that participated in the tripartite meeting of the leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus in Thessaloniki, departed late at night from Makedonia International Airport.



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