An upsetting diplomatic mishap overshadowed the visit of Greek
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Israel: Greece's PM refused to wear a yarmulke (kippa) at a memorial service for Holocaust victims that took place at the Yizkor tent (Hall of Remembrance) at Yad Vashem on Tuesday.
The ceremony's organizers urged Samaras to honor the occasion. When he was offered to put on a hat instead of a yarmulke, he still declined, and finally laid a wreath bareheaded.
It is rare for distinguished foreign guests to take such a stance: Nevertheless, in 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan acted in a similar manner. Former French President Jacques Chirac also refused to wear a yarmulke, however settled for a hat.
Samaras lays a wreath (Photo: EPA) Israeli officials were surprised by Samaras' persistent refusal, since he is considered a friendly foreign leader who is leading a fierce policy against neo-Nazis
in Greece, as well as against anti-Semitism
and racism in general.
Yad Vashem said in response: "Guests are asked to cover their heads only when visiting the Yizkor tent, where ashes of the (concentration) camps' victims lay. Yad Vashem regrets (that Greece's PM refused to wear a yarmulke), but that was his decision."
Samaras is visiting Israel
together with eight Greek ministers in charge of foreign affairs, internal security, energy, education, culture, tourism, shipping and development ministers. During his visit, 10 agreements were signed between Israel in Greece in the above fields.
Menachem Gantz contributed to this report
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