I have never visited Germany. I passed through the country on connecting flights a few times, but I never stopped to tour it. I have friends and family who have wonderful thing to say about Berlin, acquaintances who go on and on about the cheap pudding. I, on the other hand, am deterred. I don't boycott (It's pretty stupid to talk about boycotts in a country which enjoys German submarines and German security aid), but I am not eager to hear German either. A second generation of Israeli education.
After the army I hiked for a few weeks with a German girl, in the past few years I have met German politicians and cooperated with German academics - and yet something has gone wrong in my system. When I meet a German person I can't help but think about the origin of his family, and there is not a single time I hear German without thinking about the murderous voices my family members heard seven decades ago. It's a Holocaust complex which has nothing to do with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inclination to bring it back in the form of the Iranian nuclear threat.
I am telling you all this because the images of Syrian refugees being welcomed in Germany require me to think again. The people standing with signs and greeting the refugees, the volunteers flooding the railway stations courteously and with a smile on their face (in contradiction of everything I know about the Germans' mechanical coolness), the money arriving from the government, the donated clothes, and mainly the German willingness to take a risk. And yes, there is a risk.
The one million refugees that Germany plans to take in, and hundreds of thousands who are arriving in different ways, will turn into a large minority within Germany. The chance that they will integrate into Europe's Western-liberal culture is not high.
Historical experience shows that frustration creates disappointment, followed by children growing with hatred. That's how it is with the Muslim minority in France, Britain and Holland. That's how it is with young Western Muslims, the second and third generation of immigrants, who leave their safe home in order to volunteer with the Islamic State in the Middle East and kill other Westerners and Muslims.
Germany can deal with several million Syrian refugees demographically, but it can't necessarily deal with the long-term outcomes. So it is precisely because of this risk that the change is so impressive.
In the name of justice and morality, in the name of the desire to give humans freedom, Germany is taking a huge gamble. It may be committing suicide. The far right will gain power, the immigrants will have an influence, the country will change, and yet this is the decision made by Chancellor Angela Merkel - regardless of religion, race or gender, and not as a slogan.
I had the chance of meeting Merkel a year ago when she visited Israel. I received an invitation from the German Embassy. I wrote immediately afterwards that it was a special meeting because I was under the impression that she was listening to what I was saying. Or perhaps she is such a good politician that she managed to create the impression that she was listening. Among Israeli politicians, it's easy to detect who only talks and who pretends to be listening.
It seemed to me at the time that she really feels committed to Israel, that she is carrying the weight of history - the Holocaust committed by her people. The decision she just made creates a liberal utopia in the heart of Europe. It's as far as one can get from the dark days of the Third Reich.
And what about Israel? Have we changed since Prime Minister Menachem Begin took in a few Vietnamese refugees? The answer is no. Begin didn't really take in refugees and jeopardize Israel demographically. It was simply a symbolic act, just like we can't take in refugees from Syria now. If the Israeli government would have been able to think first, Netanyahu - like Begin at the time - would have offered to take in several hundred Druze or Christians are temporary residents, not more, for the photo opportunity and the image.
In practice, Israel can't take in refugees now - and couldn't take in refugees in the past either. The demographic threat is real, and the need to preserve the Jewish nation state's character as a democracy doesn’t allow for large minorities. The current numbers of Muslims pose a complicated challenge even without additions.
Morality and justice are a significant part of the components of the Israeli identity. But the need to survive is as important. That's what we learned from the old Germany. Today we are learning that there are countries which create a revolution, countries which believe in liberal values even when they don’t work out for them. I wish this were not an illusion. Not for Israel's sake, but because it's a good thing to have in a cynical, dark world, filled with interests.