“Lithuania is a friend of Israel,” writes Israel’s daily newspaper, the Jerusalem Post. Lithuania has earned the country’s praise after voting against the membership of Palestine in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Lithuania was one of 14 countries to support Israel on the question of Palestine. The Jerusalem Post has called it an improvement in the relationship between the two countries, lrytas.lt reported on 29 November.
Jerusalem’s daily newspaper added that voting against Palestine is just one of many steps taken by Lithuania to improve its relations with the Jews – “Lithuania’s Government has consciously made an effort to improve relations with its Jews’ Diaspora, and the Jewish population across the world”.
In 1995, while visiting Knesset, the President of Lithuania officially apologised for his country’s role in the Holocaust.
In 2011, the Government organised Holocaust remembrance events across the country, calling 2011 a year of remembrance. Furthermore, in June 2011, the Government announced plans to compensate the Jews who had survived the holocaust in Lithuania, and every year, on 23rd September, the country holds a day of remembrance of the holocaust victims.
The Jerusalem Post claims that World War Two left a clear footprint on Lithuania, but the Government has tried to explain its side of the story. The US has also contributed to improving relations between Israel and Lithuania. The US Ambassador in Lithuania, Ann Derse, encourage the US and Lithuanian Governments to co-operate, while inviting lecturers from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to Lithuania.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Lithuania’s ambassador in the US, Zygimantas Pavilionis, has organised two round table discussions regarding the Jewish community’s critique of Lithuania. The ambassador has also supported the Saulegraza (Sunflower) Project, aiming to strengthen Jewish and non-Jewish communities’ communications with Lithuania, educate the youth, and continue Jewish cultural heritage. In September, Lithaunia’s embassy supported a concert in Washington; the funds from which will be donated towards the reconstruction of a Jewish cemetery.
Pavilionis is organising the first united Hanukah and Christmas party for the Lithuanian embassy in December 2011. The Jerusalem Post has called these actions revolutionary moments in Lithuania’s history.
Translated by Ieva Kirdeikytė
Edited by Charlotte Radford