In Germany, Giuliani pegs Israel as key to world peace

BERLIN — The former mayor of New York is drawing on his experience with terrorism to help raise funds for Israel.

Rudy Giuliani appeared Monday at two United Israel Appeal fund-raising events aimed at the non-Jewish German public.

Israel's is an "outpost of freedom and democracy and the rule of law," Giuliani said Monday in a speech at Hamburg's ornate town hall, and its preservation is "a key to world peace."

Giuliani told reporters he did not hold Hamburg responsible for the fact that some of the Sept. 11 terrorists had planned their attacks there.

"Hamburg is a great city," he said at a news conference. "Any city, including New York, can unfortunately serve as the background from which people do evil and horrible things."

Monday's fund-raising events in Hamburg and Berlin were organized by Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal as part of a new campaign for the hearts — and pockets — of evangelical Christians.

Andreas Wankum, director of Keren Hayesod in Germany, told the Hamburg audience that he had invited Giuliani "because we wanted you to meet someone who was directly affected by terrorism, who felt it in his own body."

"We in the free world thought we had overcome such blind murder when we beat the Nazi terror," Wankum said. "But no: This lust for murder is showing itself again, this time from another corner of the world."

In Germany, Jewish groups traditionally have avoided cooperating with fundamentalist Christian groups.

Keren Hayesod does cooperate, but only with groups that do not target Jews for conversion, according to the organization's spokesman in Germany, Wolf Bruer.

"It is an essential change for Keren Hayesod," Bruer said. "In Germany, a lot of support is coming from Christians. It comes partly from a sense of common responsibility for the Holocaust."

"We have been very guilty, all Christians," said Waltraud Keil, president of the Christian fundamentalist group The Bridge Berlin-Jerusalem. "It did not start with Hitler."

Jewish leaders increasingly are willing to accept support for Israel from Christian fundamentalist groups, said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the Chicago- and Jerusalem-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The fellowship recently signed an agreement under which Eckstein will assist Keren Hayesod's efforts to reach out to Christians in Europe. His first campaign in Germany is scheduled for February.

"It has never been done before," Eckstein said, but it makes perfect sense, since Christian groups gave $21 million to Israel in 2002.

During the past year, thousands of evangelical Christians demonstrated for Israel in Berlin and in The Hague in the Netherlands.

"Jews have to get it where they can," said Israel Singer, president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Claims Conference. "People don't have a choice when they are isolated. We need support from like-minded, Judeo-Christian types."

But some cautioned that there are limits to the alliance.

"I think we don't have to reject the money, but that does not make" evangelical groups "our friends, because we are different from them fundamentally in many respects," said Michael Brenner, professor of Jewish history at the Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich.

Giuliani's appearance came as Germany re-evaluates its long-standing support of Israel, in light of popular support for the Palestinian cause and opposition to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The Israeli Embassy in Berlin welcomed Giuliani's efforts.

Giuliani, who interrupted a book promotion tour in England for the events, spoke in Hamburg's City Hall on Monday afternoon and in Berlin's City Hall in the evening.

In Hamburg, Mayor Ole von Beust presided over the event.

Funds raised at the events are earmarked for fire-fighting and rescue equipment, ambulances, and other medical services. Keren Hayesod did not say how much money was raised.

Recalling his emotions as the events of Sept. 11 unfolded, Giuliani told the Hamburg audience that he had turned to Israel for inspiration.

"I saw horrors I never imagined seeing in all my life," he said. "I saw one man, and then another, jumping from the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center. And as I was considering how I could gather the strength for my people, I thought about my trip to Israel after the assassination of" Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

"I thought of how Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert invited me to ride a city bus after the bus bombings there, to show the people how not to be afraid to stand up to terror," he said.

If the Israelis could get through "days and days and days of the possibility of terror attacks," Giuliani said, "then we could get through whatever we had to get through in the United States.''

Toby Axelrod

Toby Axelrod is JTA’s correspondent for Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A former assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, she has also worked as staff writer and editor at the New York Jewish Week and published books on Holocaust history for teenagers.