The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, visited Israel last week, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and participated in the dedication of a monument in Tel Aviv. The monument commemorates the saving of Bulgaria’s Jewish community during World War II, when a public awareness campaign by opposition politicians, church leaders, Bulgaria’s Jewish community, and Bulgarian civilians succeeded in thwarting Nazi plans to deport Bulgaria’s Jews.
On Wednesday, September 5 the two prime ministers met at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu spoke of the relationship between the two countries “we are not only personal friends, but there’s a special friendship between the people of Bulgaria and the people of Israel.” Netanyahu added the intent to increase cooperation in a variety of fields: cyber technology, health, water, etc., along with a general cooperation in promoting a better future for both peoples.
At the culminating event Wednesday evening, a ceremony was held in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park. Bulgarian Jews, friends, and supporters of both nations, and journalists filled a tent at the by invitation event, listening to speeches and awaiting the unveiling of a monument of gratitude for the rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews.
The evening began with the entrance of both prime ministers, and Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai. The Tsadikov Orchestra sang the national anthems of both countries. Mayor Huldai spoke about the twin city relationship between Sofia and Tel Aviv. He then read from personal testimonies of Jews who were saved in Bulgaria about their kind treatment at the hands of neighbors, while acknowledging the Jews who were deported from Thrace and Macedonia and perished in Nazi concentration camps. Huldai finished by noting the contribution of Bulgarian Jews to the development of Tel Aviv and sending warm regards on behalf of all of the residents of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Itzhak Lipovetzky and Itzhaq Inov, from the Israel-Bulgaria Friendship association, spoke about the importance of preserving close ties between Bulgaria and Israel, as well as the knowledge of Bulgarian Jewish history. Lipovetzky, who spoke in Bulgarian as well, described the long journey to bring the monument to Tel Aviv, along with a matching one in Sofia, that he began in 2011 while visiting Bulgaria.
In a moving experience, a first generation Israeli-Bulgarian spoke next, followed by two forth generation Israelis of Bulgarian descent. Adel and Emanuelle, students at the Bulgarian school in Jaffa, recited a poem in Bulgarian and received a standing ovation.
Prime Minister Borisov addressed the crowd next, speaking in Bulgarian. After a musical interlude, the two prime ministers, along with mayor Huldai, removed the cover of the monument.
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke last, stating that the experience during the Holocaust throughout Europe showed how the Jews were unprotected, and the need for a strong state to protect Jews. He quoted the Nazi representative in Sofia during World War II, who said that the Bulgarian people weren’t prepared to collaborate with the extermination of Jews, stating that this was the greatest compliment that one could give.
Among the distinguished guests at the event were Bulgarian Ambassador Dimitar Mihaylov and his wife Nora Mihaylov; Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria, Mrs. Irit Lilian; Ambassador Meron Reuben, chief of state protocol in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Professor Todor Chobanov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia; Mr. Moni Bar, Honorary Consul of Bulgaria; Menache Ragiv , aviation industry representative, who works with governments around the world , Shelly Hoshen, who was born in Bulgaria herself, and is President and founder of Yad B'Yad, a non-profit which helps underprivileged youth, and Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad B’Yad; Gueorg Gueorguiev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Coordinator of Combating Anti- Semitism in Bulgaria; Itzhak Lipovetzky, President of the Israel-Bulgaria Friendship association, and Eitan Schwarz, CEO of Tel Aviv Global for the Tel Aviv municipality.
Photos by Silvia G Golan
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