One ball to change it all

50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany

Grinnell at Ripon women's soccer © Ripon College
Grinnell at Ripon women's soccer © Ripon College
10 FEB 2015
by

It was 1991 when I arrived for the first time to Germany. Actually, I arrived to the place where East Germany, East Berlin used to be two years before that. Spending the four hours gap I had before catching the train to Hannover, in order to participate to a fair, I recall myself wondering near the station and breathing the fresh air of the new and united Germany. Still I could see the differences between the western and the eastern habitants of Germany, by their looks, clothing and behavior. Many ex-soldiers of East Germany were sitting on the cold sidewalk selling theirs' military souvenirs from the time of the Soviet Union ruling hoping to make some living and become wealthy like theirs' brothers from the west.

Later, talking to a taxi driver from the west he was complaining about the bad driving of the eastern drivers causing a lot of accidents. The Berlin wall collapsed only two years before that and Germany was trying to make its best to cop the fast changes but I think it wasn't so easy at the beginning. It wasn't easy also to delete the dark history of Germany and especially East Germany. How could you be sure that the conductor who asked for my tickets on the train wasn't in his past a member of the SS or the Stasi. And then, when I caught the train on our way to Hannover we stopped at Potsdam and all the history lessons appeared as a flesh in my memory. And I recall also the shock I got facing for my first time in life what was considered to be the German efficiency, discipline and accuracy.

I gathered all my experiences from Germany into a novel named "Melitta kaffee" which will be published soon. A novel about a young Israeli businessman who arrives to Germany with his boss, a Holocaust survivor, and meets a German lady telling him her family's dark side connected to Melitta kaffee and the Nazi party.

Coming back to Germany years later I understood as a Jew and Israeli that it is almost unthinkable to forgive the German people for what they have done to the Jews and the rest of the world, but if we really want to make the world a better place to live in we should and must open new pages and write our future history together with hope and peace but without forgetting the past.

And now, after 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany I was invited to meet a soccer team from Potsdam, Germany, which came to visit Israel for the first time. Well, it wasn't merely a soccer team; it was the women FFC TURBINE from Potsdam.

My first impression of the team was their efficiency, discipline and accuracy. Even though the average age was 21, the youngest is 16 and the oldest is 31, and of the fact that each one of them has a job or still studying, they are professionals. Since 1971, the date of their establishment, they won two times the European championship, took the East German league six times and six more times after the unity of Germany and considered as one of the best teams in Europe. They even won the Israeli women team 5 null.

I joined the team when they arrived to Jerusalem to have training. Speaking with some of the players and the assistant coach I realized it was their first time in Israel, visiting the only Jewish state in the world. I'm sure that the fact that they were exposed to so many sights and mostly to the Yad VaShem Holocaust memorial museum they needed time to digest everything, but still it didn't have effect on their training, doing gym exercises quietly and professionally. Oh, I almost forgot, and with admirable discipline.

This is the opportunity to thank them for visiting us and, no doubt that these kinds of events and activities will contribute to the strong relationships between the two states.

Before I left them, giving the captain one of my books as a present, I looked at the ball which actually they didn't play with at the training and was thinking that even a ball like that can be a bridge between human beings and nations as well. Who doesn't like to play? Wish we could solve our problems in a soccer field, shooting the ball towards the net and not shooting bullets at each other.