Lithuania and Israel: A History Connecting the Future

Lithuania and Israel: A History Connecting the Future

by Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi,

“The purpose of redemption is to protect the truth,” the Vilna Gaon said. One of the most renowned scholars and exegetes of the Torah and the Talmud, the Vilna Gaon held great influence through his works on the religious and cultural identity of Litvaks. The Lithuanian parliament declared 2020, the 300th anniversary of his birth, the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak history.

The year 2020 was dedicated to the extraordinarily rich, continuing 700-year history of Jews in Lithuania. The unique Lithuanian shtetlakh gave birth to many religious authorities and sages, and also to Jewish artists of world renown. The painter Marc Chagal bloomed under Lithuanian skies. Memories of Lithuania live in contemporary author Grigoriy Kanovitch’s work. The land inspired Emmanuel Levinas to ponder the secrets of existence and provided the nostalgic ring to Lea Goldberg’s poems. When we talk about the exceptional history of the Jews of Lithuania, we also remember the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust. All of us must pledge never to forget what happened, and to judge honestly and objectively our shared past, no matter how painful it might be.

As we seek to commemorate history, we have also come up with new ideas, we have named the challenges which face us and we have looked for innovative solutions. We can only build a strong model of the future on the foundation of the past. When Lithuania restored independence 30 years ago, Israel was one of the first countries to open diplomatic ties with our Republic. Today both countries enjoy strong and ever-expanding ties in different areas including trade, tourism, scientific and academic cooperation, finance, transportation and energy technology and innovations, as well as cooperation in the fields of security and defense. It is an encouraging thing that there is a constant and intense political dialogue underway between Lithuania and Israel.

Working together for the common good, uniting forces to meet the challenges of the 21st century, implementing green and digital restructurings, insuring cyber security and stopping climate change. Today Lithuania’s cities have become home for thousands of exchange students from Israel and hundreds of future Israeli doctors are studying at Lithuanian universities. We seek to open the way for the youth of our countries to celebrate these mutual relations between the people of Lithuania and Israel. We will continue and expand the energetic dialogue between our governments and peoples based on lessons learned from the mistakes of the past and focusing on the future. Let this be a dialogue between equal partners who are connected by shared values and who have the aim of bringing Europe and the Near East closer together. The Vilna Gaon who dedicated his life to seeking spiritual truth and to learning will always inspire the people of Lithuania and Israel to cherish these bilateral relations, together with safeguarding and strengthening the values of tolerance, justice and respect for every citizen and the entire Earth.

Full text in Lithuanian here.