Negev Forest Dedicated in Memory of Philipp Mißfelder

Monday, September 19, 2016

“Israel is not only our partner but also a close friend.” said Paul Ziemiak, Federal Chairman of the Junge Union Deutschlands.

On Wednesday, September 14, a delegation of members of the Junge Union Deutschlands (Young Union of Germany), including Bundestag members and other high-ranking German officials, dedicated a forest in memory of Philipp Mißfelder, former chairman of the Young Union.

“Israel is not only our partner but also a close friend. Phillip made every effort that the bond between us would be between people, not only part of the political elite’s agenda. This forest is a fitting tribute to him, and I am delighted that our Chancellor Angela Merkel personally contributed ten trees for it.” Paul Ziemiak, Federal Chairman of the Junge Union Deutschlands (Young Union of Germany – JU), was speaking at KKL-JNF’s German States Forest in the Western Negev at the dedication ceremony of a forest in memory of former JU Chairman Philipp Mißfelder.

“The past connects the German and Israeli peoples in a complex way,” Mr. Ziemiak continued, “and in the future we must ensure that Israel always exists as a homeland for the Jewish people. Philipp’s vision, which is now my vision, is to work hard to maintain this understanding.”

Philipp Mißfelder (25 August 1979 – 13 July 2015) was a German politician and a member of the German Bundestag. From January through March 2014 he served in the German government as the Coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation in the field of inter-societal relations, culture and information policy. An influential voice on German foreign affairs, he strongly criticized famed German author Günter Grass when the latter controversially wrote a poem critical of Israel. Mißfelder died unexpectedly on July 13, 2015, survived by his wife Ann-Christin and their two daughters.

The German delegation, which was comprised of 10 Bundestag members and other high-ranking German officials, spent two very full days in Israel, including a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. All of them are members of the Junge Union Deutschlands, which is the youth organization of the two conservative  German political parties, CDU and CSU. Junge Union, which was founded in 1947, is the largest political youth organization in Germany and Europe with about 120,000 members. The dedication of a KKL-JNF forest in memory of Philipp Mißfelder was the impetus for their whirlwind visit to Israel.

Sarah Singer, President of JNF-KKL Germany, greeted the guests and noted that relations between Israel and Germany are extremely significant and meaningful. “As a Jewish person who lives in Germany, it is always a welcome duty and pleasure to host missions from Germany visiting Israel and learning about KKL-JNF’s activities. The members of the JU are the generation of the future.”

Speaking at the ceremony, which was moderated by Johannes Guagnin, Foreign Relations and Research Coordinator for KKL-JNF’s Afforestation Department, JU Chairman Paul Ziemiak said that this was a very special day. “We have a tremendous debt to Phillip, who served as chairman of JU before his untimely demise. Phillip believed that young people should make their voice heard in politics. He devoted his life to bringing people together and to bringing hearts closer. I would like to thank all my friends who decided to dedicate this forest. It would have been impossible without you.”

Daniel Walter, former treasurer of the JU, was a close friend of Phillip’s: “I am proud to be at the forest that commemorates Phillip’s memory. I worked very closely with Phillip, first as an editor of our newspaper and later as the treasurer of the JU. One of our organization’s main goals is to created international ties through personal friendships – to connect people of different countries and origins. For us, this moment will last forever. Phillip’s memory will be honored and never forgotten.”

After the ceremony, the delegation planted three trees at the site. They proceeded to KKL-JNF’s Yatir Forest, the largest planted forest in Israel and a stunning example of how it is possible for a forest to thrive in a semi-arid region with minimal annual average precipitation. They also visited the Anim ruins, where they saw the remnants of a synagogue that was established in the fourth century and existed until the eighth century.

The day concluded with lunch at Foresters House at Yatir. In the words of Bundestag Member Stephan Heck: “Phillip was the voice of the young people, a true friend and primarily an example for us all. I am very moved to see a forest dedicated to his memory. He was a great lover of your country. I don’t think there was any other country as close to his heart as Israel.”