President Reuven Rivlin today (Tuesday) visited the city of Antwerp at the invitation of the Mayor of the city, Bart De Wever, and Governor of the Province of Antwerp, Cathy Berx. On the President's arrival the clocks of the Cathedral of Antwerp played the Hatikva, Israel's national anthem.
The President thanked his hosts for the moving welcome before holding a working meeting with the Governor and the Mayor on efforts to strengthen ties between the Israeli people and the Antwerp region, and the important role the local Jewish community played in the economic, and cultural life of the areas.
Following their meeting, President Rivlin said, "At this time we must stand together, and say “No to hatred”, “No to terror”, and “No to extremism”. Antwerp, like my city Jerusalem, is a microcosm, of our ability to live together as different communities, with respect, with understanding, and with a shared vision for the future."
The President added, "Antwerp like Jerusalem, is a city with a great history, which is looking to the future." He went on to thank the Mayor for his support for the Jewish community and said, "I want to thank you for your leadership, for your strong position against hatred, against anti-Semitism, and all racism. I want to thank you, for your support of the Jewish community, along with all the communities of this city."
Mayor De Wever stressed his commitment to the Jewish community, and spoke of the great pride the city felt over the large Jewish community, and added, "We will soon be coming to your country with a large delegation, including Vice Mayors, Chambers of Commerce, and entrepreneurs, who are interested to see what is going on in Israel, the technology developed in Israel, and we hope to make a quantum leap forward to connect our investors and entrepreneurs with the scene in Israel."
Governor Berx welcomed the President and said, "Israel is one of the world's tech powers. This is an inspiration for our creative and entrepreneurial people. The Jewish community is inextricably linked to Antwerp, with the city and beyond. The whole province shows traces of a centuries old Jewish history. Jewish people added and still add greatly, to the international and cosmopolitan character of our region."
Later, the President continued his visit to the city by visiting the Red Star Line museum which tells the story of the more than two million migrants who passed through the city, many en route to North America between the years 1837-1934. The museum addresses the phenomenon of migration and immigration from an historical, current and universal perspective through the stories of those who travelled on the ships of the Red Star Line. Among the migrants whose story was told was Albert Einstein and late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
At the end of his tour of the museum, the President met with leaders of the different faith communities in Antwerp who held an interfaith dialogue. The Christian community was represented by Hoet Hendrik, a senior pastor in the Diocese of Antwerp, and a leading figure in Christian-Jewish relations; Lins Olivier a senior pastor who served as the Bishops' Secretary. The Muslim community representatives included, Maftouhi Jamal, an Imam from the Moroccan Muslim community, and Taouil Nourine, a Wahabi Sunni Imam, and a member of the Muslim Council. The Jewish community was represented Rabbi Aaron Melinsky, who served as a lecturer at the center for Jewish studies at the Antwerp University, and Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki of Antwerp Chabad.
The group told the President about the joint dialogue between their communities and how it had been a driving force to build bridges between the communities during challenging times as well as in everyday lives, against a background of the terror attacks which had taken place in Belgium in recent times