BONN (Sep. 26)
While Israeli leaders and Diaspora Jews have voiced concern over the unification of Germany, the merger, due to be completed formally next Wednesday, seems to have benefited both Jerusalem and the local community here — at least in the short term.
This became evident symbolically last month, when the Jewish communities of West and East Germany decided to form a joint organization some six weeks ahead of the unification date.
Moreover, since the fall of the Berlin Wall last November, the two separate Jewish communities in the former German capital have practically become one.
A few months ago, the Jewish communities in West and East Germany joined the chorus of German groups that had come out in favor of unification. The declaration was adopted in Berlin, the city that has suffered most during the long division of the country.
Israel has already benefited commercially and politically from the fall of communism in East Germany and the process of unification.
The Israeli national airline El Al has opened an office in Berlin and introduced direct flights from Tel Aviv. Israel’s German office for tourism, located in Frankfurt, is planning to open a branch in Berlin, in order to run promotion campaigns aimed at potential East German customers.
Israeli consumer goods, which formerly could be found only in West Germany, have become commonplace in East German retail chains, which now get most of their supplies from the West. Agricultural products, in particular, have become popular with East Germans, who formerly had been denied most of the exotic fruits and vegetables from southern countries.
NO LONGER A HOSTILE VOICE
Politically, East Germany is no longer a hostile voice against Israel in international organizations. And the country no longer provides arms and military training to Palestinian terror groups, though it did so as late as last month.
The united Germany is expected to adopt policies that have been practiced for years by Bonn: friendship and cooperation with Israel, coupled with an effort to demonstrate understanding for Jewish concerns.
Chances are good, according to observers, that the united Germany will pay some reparations to Jews who lost or left behind property in what is now East German territory.
Claims have already been filed with the New York-based Conference for Material Claims Against Germany.
The Jewish communities in Berlin and other East German cities are likely to win back property formerly belonging to Jewish groups that was confiscated by the Nazis and later used by the Communists. That will boost efforts by the tiny East German Jewish community to revitalize Jewish life in the eastern portion of the unified nation.
But as recent anti-Semitic incidents in the West and the East have shown, there may also be a gloomy side to the otherwise positive unification picture.
In the West, right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis have been active recently in desecrating Jewish cemeteries and pointing to the “dangers” allegedly posed by foreigners.
In the East, the new freedom has brought out in the open popular anti-Semitism, which had been nurtured but kept under wraps by the former Communist government’s extreme hostility toward Israel.
With the Allied Powers giving up their right to control virtually every aspect of life in Berlin, the united town ceases to be a zone where neo-Nazi groups have been banned.
In Berlin and throughout Germany, forces of moderation will now have to demonstrate their ability to check extremist tendencies and uphold the values and policies that have characterized the Western-oriented Federal Republic.