New Israeli Ambassador Tells Lithuania to Look in Mirror

New Israeli Ambassador Tells Lithuania to Look in Mirror

Photo by J. Stacevičius/LRT

by Mindaugas Jackevičius,

We’re not ordering you, we’re only asking you to take a mirror and take a look at yourself, to open the history books and check out what happened in the dark chapters. That’s what Israeli’s new ambassador to Lithuania Yosi Levy said in an exclusive interview with . He thinks most Lithuanians don’t know what happened to the Jews of Lithuania during the war, that it is a story which hasn’t been told appropriately.

At the same time, he says, Israel doesn’t blame today’s Lithuania, and emphasizes mature and good relations between the countries.

On the person of Jonas Noreika, Levy said: “He wasn’t a murderer, but he collaborated with the devil.”

Levy, who began his work in Lithuania over a month ago, is a well-known writer and has worked as ambassador in Belgrade and worked at the embassies in Bonn, Berlin and Warsaw. In the interview we spoke about the fate of Lithuania’s Jews, bilateral relations and an intriguing book which will open the eyes of Lithuanians to a different side of Israel and its ambassador.

You chose Lithuania from among several countries offered. Why did you choose our country? Do you have some connection with Lithuania?

It’s usual for ambassadors to choose the country where they want to serve. I was offered several capitals in Europe, Latin America and Asia. I chose Vilnius and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

I don’t have family ties in this part of the world because my parents come from Iran and Afghanistan. As you know, Israeli Jews are categorized as ashkenazim, those who have roots in Europe, and sefardim, which is the name given to Jews from Spain, although it doesn’t have anything in common with modern Spain. Sefardi means Oriental Jews, from the Mediterranean and the Islamic world. My family comes from Asia.

But I did have a strong emotional connection with Lithuania, I felt attracted to this country because this is where so many Jewish ideas were born which I learned about in childhood. I also mean the location where Jews settled, the Jerusalem of the North. As soon as I head the name Vilnius, it was clear I would come here.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.