"I like the combination of old and new"
The following translation of an interview with Israel's ambassador to
Croatia appeared in the Januart 28, 2004 edition of Vjesnik. John
I HOPE SANADER VISITS ISRAEL
Zagreb, January 27. The Israeli Ambassador to Croatia who has her seat
in Vienna, Yael Rubenstein, rates relations between Israel and Croatia
as more than good, emphasizing that she expects continued cooperation
with the new government. In a discussion with Vjesnik, Ambassador
Rubenstein emphasized that Jews in Croatia feel completely equal with
other Croatian citizens and that the possibility of cooperation between
the two nations are promising. The Israeli ambassador notes with
pleasure that there is no anti-Semitism in Croatia.
Vjesnik. - Among the 19,000 Righteous Gentiles, 98 are from Croatia.
How do you see the contributions and courage of Croatian citizens in
saving Jews during World War II?
Rubenstein. - Those 98 Croats together with other Righteous Gentiles in
the world were extremely brave and for me are the most worthy persons.
Working in such a manner during the dark period of our history during
World War II and being so brave so as to do what you believe, in spite
of the atmosphere which then prevailed in central European countries and
in Germany and Austria, acting in keeping with one's conscience, is
something with which we should all admire. We should take this as a
lesson for the future, because I believe that such racism and hatred
toward one who is different or toward a foreigner should not have a
place anywhere in the world.
Vjesnik. - Do Jews feel the effects of the Holocaust today, in Croatia
Rubenstein. - My impression, after meetings with the Jewish community in
Croatia and with other Israelis who now work in Croatia, is more than
good, they feel terrific in Croatia, they have excellent relations and
cooperation with ministries and institutions. They feel completely
secure, fully equal and they have no problems, they feel very satisfied.
Of course, all have some memories concerning what occurred fifty years
ago. I visited the Jewish community in Zagreb and I was impressed with
their activities. I think that they feel completely equal as do other
people in Croatia who are not Jews.
Vjesnik. - We are witnesses to occasional anti-Semitism in many
countries. What can we do to stop it?
Rubenstein. - I am very satisfied that I can say that Croatia is not one
of those countries in Europe in which we are confronted with
anti-Semitism. In some other Western European countries, which I will
not now mention, some of them are in the European Union, we are
confronted with strong anti-Semitism, burning of synagogues or attacks
on rabbis on the street. Personally, I see this as a deficit in serious
education. The fact that someone can come to a Jew, Christian or Muslim
and attack him only because he is something that he is not is something
that I cannot understand. I think that European countries, as all
countries in the world, must concentrate on educating people to
understand that in civilized society it is completely normal that not
everyone be totally the same. It is fine to believe in a different
faith, a different track, to be a member of another party. Tolerance is
one of the key questions of this and the following decades.
Vjesnik. - How do you see present day relations between Croatia and
Rubenstein. - I see much potential if we think about economic and
political relations. I see Croatia as a very friendly country toward
Israel. In the past two years we have had two presidential visits,
first your president came to Israel and then our president came to
Croatia. Now you have a new government and we hope that some of your
ministers will visit Israel, including the Premier. In Croatia we feel
as if we are at home, not only me as an Ambassador, but it is also a
feeling I get from other Israelis who work or live here.
Vjesnik. - What is the potential for economic prospects between Israel
and Croatia to further advance?
Rubenstein. - I attempt to direct all of your visits [to Israel]
especially toward the development of economic relations. I see great
potential in many areas, such as in agriculture. We in Israel developed
a unique system of irrigation, and I know there are problems in
Slavonia. I think that cooperation can also be achieved in health care.
We can share with you the latest findings in the treatment of cancer or
dialysis, we always want to share these findings with friendly nations,
among which are Croatia. We can also have certain common views with
respect to the EU and NATO.
Vjesnik. - How can Israel assist Croatia in approaching Euro-Atlantic
Rubenstein. - We are not part of the European Union, but we have a
special agreement with the Union. For certain reasons we currently do
not wish to be a part of the EU and we are not concerned with those
problems, but we are close to the Union. Since Croatia is one of those
countries which will enter into the Union in the second round, it is in
our interest that we closely work with current and future members of the
Vjensik. - What are your impressions of Croatia?
Rubenstein. - I like Zagreb very much. I have been to Split, Dubrovnik
and Hvar and some other islands. It is such a beautiful country. We
also have a beautiful coastline but you have all those islands and when
you drive from Dubrovnik to the north it is magical. In Zagreb I like
the combination of old and new which we have in Jerusalem. That
combination is always impressive and unique.