Netanyahu visited major historical sites in Lithuania, commenting on attempts to destroy the Jewish people during modern times, from the Nazis during World War II to the current day Iranian regime and Hamas.
By: Ebin Sandler, World Israel News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visited several major Jewish historical sites in Lithuania on Sunday, including the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius (Vilna). This house of worship is the only synagogue in the city that survived World War II.
At the synagogue, Netanyahu met with representatives of the Lithuanian Jewish community, in addition to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and Lithuanian MP Emanuelis Zingeris.
During the visit, the Israeli prime minister reflected on his family’s “deep Lithuanian roots” and the sights he had seen during a tour through Vilnius’ Jewish ghetto, referencing “the barricade where Yechiel Scheinbaum and his brave colleagues fought to the deaths the Nazi oppressors.”
“We saw Jewish resistance in the heart of the ghetto. And we saw the courtyards where Jews were assembled before being crated off to Ponar where they were shot by Lithuanian collaborators and the Nazis and then thrown into the death pits,” Netanyahu added.
Turning to the modern day challenges facing the State of Israel and the Jewish people, Netanyahu commented, “I come to Vilna, I return to Vilna as the head of a proud, strong, advanced Jewish state. For the Jewish people, what has changed in these 75 years? Not the attempts to destroy us. They’re still [trying] to destroy us.
“Iran says so openly. Hamas says so openly and others. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. We are no longer defenseless. We are no longer helpless. We are a power that controls our own destiny with the State of Israel and the army of Israel.”
Netanyahu concluded his remarks at the synagogue on a cautionary note, reminding the assembled of a key “lesson” of the Holocaust: “Nip bad things in the bud. Stop bad things when they are small. Fight barbarism and terrorism and radicalism when they’re small. Don’t let them become large.”
In addition to the synagogue, Netanyahu and his wife also visited the Jewish Books Division of the National Library of Lithuania, where they viewed works spanning hundreds of years, including a commentary on the Book of Psalms from 1512 and treatises from the heads of Lithuania’s thriving pre-Holocuast Jewish academies.
Works by Zeev Jabotinsky, Chaim Nachman Bialik and Saul Tchernichovsky and others were also on display.
“There is an immense treasure here,” Netanyahu commented. “What a rich world this was [that] has been lost,” he concluded.
Netanyahu’s visit to Lithuania was planned around a summit of the Baltic states (B3+1), providing the Israeli prime minister with an opportunity to meet not only with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, but also Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas.
The summit set the stage for the leaders to discuss strengthening ties between their countries.