A former editor of the Jerusalem Post has received Germany’s highest state honor. Rudolf Dressler, Germany’s ambassador to Israel, presented the Merit Cross of the Federal Republic to Ari Rath in a ceremony Thursday at the German Press Center here.
Rath, who fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 for pre-state Palestine, turned 80 this year. He is the subject of a new documentary, “A Life of Many Lives,” by Austrian historian Helga Embacher and filmmaker Hannes Klein.
In presenting the award, Dressler said Rath’s has been a life “beyond comparison,” from his escape from the Nazis to his experiences in pre-state Palestine to his career in journalism.
Rath acknowledged that it wasn’t a simple choice to accept an award from the German government.
Many Jews “have rejected the Merit Cross, but I have decided after a lot of consideration and with all my heart and full understanding to accept it” in the name of “the triumph of the good and righteous over the worst of humanity,” he said.
Among the guests was Rath’s longtime friend Saleh Turujman of Washington.
Turujman, a Muslim whose family originally comes from Jerusalem, told JTA that Rath had intervened to help him in 1985 when he had trouble getting permission to visit his parents in Jerusalem. Rath suggested he write to Ezer Weizman, who at the time was a minister without portfolio in the Israeli government, he said.
“I wrote the letter, which Ari edited and carried it on to Weizman,” who arranged for Turujman to visit his family on a regular basis, he said.
Weizman also “invited me to meet him,” he added, and a friendship ensued.
Turujman said he wasn’t the only one to benefit from Rath’s generosity.
“People like Ari and Ezer Weizman were talking” about making peace with the Palestinians “for a long time now,” Turujman said. “They were a voice in the wilderness, and now it has become the policy of the country.”
The ceremony and ensuing symposium on “Continuity and Discontinuity in the German-Israeli Relationship” were sponsored by the Potsdam University’s Moses Mendelssohn Center.
The film about Rath was to have its European debut Thursday at the German Press Center, followed by screenings in Vienna on June 7 and Salzburg on June 9.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.