Lithuania in the News
22nd November 2015
President Grybauskaitė Cements Lithuania's Ties with Israel
President Dalia Grybauskaitė meeting Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy
Many important people in Israel are Litvaks, descendents of Jews from Lithuania, or more widely from the territories of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Litvaks have a history of more than 600 years in Lithuania and currently about 200,000 Litvaks call Israel home. The first three Israeli presidents were Litvaks and prominent Litvaks in Israel presently include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, former Israeli President Shimon Peres, former President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak and many other distinguished persons.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s during her recent State Visit to Israel, October 19-21, 2015 met with Israel's President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of the Word Jewish Congress. She emphasised the strong historical ties between Israel and Lithuania. President Grybauskaitė stated: "Lithuanian Jews and their descendants - known as Litvaks across the world - have played a very special role in the creation of two states, Lithuania and Israel. Litvaks were, are and will continue to be among the leading social, business, cultural and political figures of Israel. They have always been actively involved in the parliamentary work of democratic Lithuania: between the two world wars and after the reestablishment of our independence."
To honour those who perished in Holocaust she visited the Yad Vashem museum and planted an olive tree in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, dedicated to those who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Lithuanians in Garden are represented by just about the highest number of people so honoured per capita.
In Tel Aviv President Grybauskaitė opened the first ever Israeli Litvak Forum and the seventh Global Lithuanian Economic Forum, which brought together more than 100 Lithuanian and Israeli business and political leaders. This event in other years has been held in Chicago, London and Vilnius. With Lithuania one of the most educated countries in the EU and Israel's high level of funding to scientific research, Lithuanian and Israeli scientists are already cooperating in more than 60 research projects.

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