An Interview on Inforadio Berlin Featuring Me
Fifty years ago, the diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany had begun. Despite the historic circumstances, the relations between the two states could be described as normal. This fact is also contributed by the youth immigration phenomenon. How come Berlin is so popular among young Israelis? Leon Stebe asks the Israeli translator Michal Henig-Litani.
Leon Stebe: Berlin is an attractive and cool city for young people from all over the world. It is not news that Berlin is popular among young Israelis. Fifty years ago, this would have been unfathomable. On this day fifty years ago, the diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany were established. In the meantime, about ten thousand Israelis arrived in Berlin and some of them live here permanently. One of those is Michal Henig-Litani. She is a young Israeli in her early thirties, works here as a translator and she told me why she came to Berlin.
Michali: Two and a half years ago I wanted to leave; I wanted to experience something different. I've decided to move to Berlin since I have Austrian roots and I wanted to get to know the culture. It was also important to me to live for a while in Europe, because Israel is very small and has a certain culture. I simply wanted to get to know a different culture.
Leon Stebe: And you work as a translator, helping many Israelis who come here. What do you think? What kind of experiences do the young people go through here?
Michali: It's not as simple as we think. Many people come here with no language, no work and sometimes no savings, and they have to build something new. They don't know the system and need to learn everything from step one. All the things that were so simple in Israel, since we speak Hebrew and grew up there and know the system, are all of a sudden not so simple here.
Leon Stebe: The political relations between Israel and Germany are always influenced by the memory of the holocaust. How do you experience it? To which extent do Israelis who come here deal with the history and the memory?
Michali: I think there is a big difference between Germany of those times and Germany today. You might not notice it that much when you live in Israel, but when you move here it becomes much clearer. I think that many people who come here, myself included, are the third generation. This means that the holocaust was always present in our lives, but we can deal with it. We're more open. We can do what our parents and grandparents couldn't do that easily.
Leon Stebe: And this is exactly why I ask myself if there are discussions about it inside the families: you talk about it, why do young Israelis choose to move to Berlin? I'm sure that not all family members are thrilled with it.
Michali:Clearly not. I think there are also two different matters here. There's the matter of leaving Israel and the matter of moving to Germany. Many parents and many families are not thrilled about their kids wanting to leave Israel; I think that every parent would like their child to stay close to him. There are families in Israel, in which German was not spoken on principal. And for those families, it could be extremely hard that the young people, the new generation, chooses to move to Germany.
Leon Stebe:We have heard in the last few weeks and months about different kinds of anti-Semitism, about the fact that Jews in Germany do not feel safe. Could I ask you how you experience it when you hear of something like this?
Michali: I've never experienced it myself. But I do have a story to tell: I was walking down the street one day and someone was following me. He was constantly talking about those Spanish people, who need to go back to Spain, and look at this lady, who came here and does nothing and simply takes our money, and I thought to myself: What? But I'm not from Spain, that's a little weird. I think we should be talking about xenophobia rather than anti-Semitism.
Leon Stebe: Finally, can you imagine living in Berlin long term? Forever?
Michali: I don't know yet. I love living in Berlin, but I'll have to see. Maybe, maybe not.