Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community and met with members who listened to his warm words for the community. Community members were also able to meet the speaker at the Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium Wednesday afternoon at a ceremony to honor the Bujel family who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.
Edelstein’s visit is a big and important event for Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Relations between Israel and Lithuania this year are the best and closest in history. Both countries are interested in strengthening existing cooperation and expanding the friendly relationship. This was demonstrated in the Knesset speaker’s meetings with all of Lithuania’s top leaders.
Visits by high-ranking Israeli leaders, begun four years in 2013 with Shimon Peres’s visit, are very important to Lithuanian Jews, imparting morale to the community as well as honor, but most of all they’re important because, for however brief a time, there is an opportunity to listen to one another. “The democratic state of Israel is a second homeland for Lithuanian Jews,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remarked at the meeting at the LJC. Edelstein in turn praised the Community’s activities.
The chairman of Israel’s parliament said Lithuania after independence cares much more about remembering the Holocaust now, and that Vilnius–the Jerusalem of the North–was one of the most important cities for Jews. Paying his respects at the Ponar Holocaust memorial, Knesset speaker Edelstein called upon Lithuania “to remember honestly” that there Nazis, Lithuanian collaborators but also rescuers of Jews in this country during the Holocaust. “This is history, you can’t rewrite it, you cannot cross it out,” he said. Changes begun in Lithuania several years ago in Holocaust consciousness have led to better relations with Israel. Edelstein told BNS this was thanks decisions made by the Lithuanian Government. He also told BNS he hoped Lithuanian leaders would maintain this line, and said it was the task of the Lithuanian Government to insure there are not xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments in the country.