President Mesic added that Croatia and Israel had a good relationship that was bereft of disagreements. That being said, he sought to underscore a number of historic facts that have been distorted. Firstly, atrocities that were committed by the Ustasha in Croatia during the Holocaust were not the acts of the Croatian people, but of people who had been brought from the outside by the occupying Germans. Secondly, the Croatian anti-fascist resistance movement against the Nazis was the largest in any part of former Yugoslavia and much of its strength was derived from its Jewish members. “The Jewish members of the resistance movement did not merely join the movement: they were among the organizers of the entire resistance; they contributed to the liberation of my country and of all Yugoslavia from the boot of Nazi occupation as among those at the head of the struggle against fascism were no fewer than nine Jewish generals.”
Earlier in the day, in a separate ceremony, also highly charged with emotion, the President of Macedonia, Gjorgje Ivanov, and his wife had planted an olive sapling in the Grove of Nations overlooking Mount Herzl and the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. He spoke with great feeling before the planting. “The friendship between Macedonia and Israel is many years old. Our common history begins hundreds of years ago but was brutally severed when 99% of the Jewish communities of Macedonia were deported to death camps within one single day during World War II. In their memories, we are now building a memorial museum, which we hope will serve not only as testimony to the lives of the Jews in Macedonia, but also as an educational center for future generations.”
President Gjorgje Ivanov replied that planting a tree symbolizes that Macedonian roots are beginning to take hold in the soil of Israel. “I would be happy if the younger generation of Macedonia would come here on their visits to Israel to monitor the growth of this olive tree.”
Later in the day, Stenzler, warmly welcoming the President of Croatia under the blistering Israeli sun, said that Israel, like Croatia, was a young country. “Our two countries rely on a rich past and a magnificent heritage. Even the weather is similar, although Croatia is blessed with a richer, more varied nature, while Israel is continually battling water shortages and desertification.” Stenzler expressed the hope that the two countries would develop scientific cooperation and research projects in their joint fields. “Our experience in water recycling and agricultural development is in the public domain, and we are always glad to share it with others, just as we are glad to learn from the experience of researchers and similar organizations for the benefit of our countries and of the environment throughout the entire world.”
At the first ceremony, the entire entourage stood on its feet as the Macedonian ambassador to Israel, Pajo Avirovik, and the designated Israeli ambassador to Macedonia, David Cohen, recited the Planter’s Prayer. At the second ceremony Croatian Ambassador to Israel Marcia Matcovic and Israeli Ambassador to Croatia Yossi Amrani recited the Planter’s Prayer.
Both President Ivanov and his wife and President Mesic and his wife applied themselves happily to the task of planting and despite the intense heat, they were very scrupulous about the planting, even watering the young saplings with much care.