President of Israel, Reuvin Rivlin, arrived in Athens late Sunday night for a three-day official visit following an invitation by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Rivlin will meet with Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday. He will lay a corner stone for the Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
In an interview to Kathimerini prior to his arrival, Rivlin praised bilateral relations and Greece’s struggle against anti-semitism and racism. He also indirectly compared US President Donald Trump with Alexander the Great.
Asked on Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Rivlin said the US preseident was on the traces of Alexander the Great.
- Do you believe that US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem will hinder further efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue? “President Trump recognized reality. A reality that Alexander the Great recognized when he came to the Holy Land. A reality that ambassadors, ministers, prime ministers, presidents, princes and kings all recognize when they come to Israel. Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. It has been for nearly 70 years, and it has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. There is no denying this basic fact.”
It was not the only reference he made on Alexander the Great. “Archaeologists in Israel and in Greece are always uncovering new discoveries about the lives of ancient Greece and ancient Israel, of the way our peoples lived in our homelands thousands of years ago. We of course fought a great battle for Jerusalem, but still the name Alexandra, after Alexander the Great, is popular in Jewish communities for the special relationship he had at the time with the High Priest in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem,” the Israeli President told kathimerini among others.
Rivilin praised “the great efforts Greece is doing to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of racism,” and stressed ” nationalism, and being patriotic does not mean hating others – inside or outside of the country. It is about being proud of your country, and knowing that the best way for nations to live together in peace is with strong identities, in understanding and acceptance of each other.”
The official program started short before 11 a.m. with laying a wreath at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament at Syntagma Square.
Rivlin will meet with President Pavlopoulos short after 11 o’ clock and with Tsipras at 12:40. he will join members of the Jewish community of Athens to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. At special event at the Israeli embassy will Greeks who have help boost Greek-Israeli relations will be honored. Among them is New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsitakis, composer Stavros Xarhakos, basketball coach Panagiotis Giannakis, businessmen and others.
An official dinner will follow.
During his visit to Thessaloniki he will participate in the laying of a corner stone for the Museum to the Victims of the Holocaust, and plant a tree in their memory.
Despite his full schedule, Rivlin asked that the itinerary prepared for him by his Greek hosts be changed so that he could visit the Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki that was vandalized earlier this month, presumably by members of the far-right Golden Dawn party, whose name was daubed at the base of the monument.
On learning of Rivlin’s request, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that he would escort the president to the site of the monument. The Israeli President will visit the royal tombs of Alexander the Great’s father, King Philip, in Vergina.
On Wednesday, he will be awarded a honorary doctorate by the International and European Studies Department of the University of Piraeus.
Access to Syntagma square is …verboten
Strict security measures have been imposed in the center of the Greek capital in the areas where the Israeli president will be moving. Security measures include Hotel Grande Bretagne where he stays, metro station <Syntagma> closed ot public between 9 am and 111:10 am. Monday.
Depending on the program, roads in athens are to be closed to traffic from time to time.
Security measures and barricades did not hinder a small group of Palestinian protesters to raise a banner. picture via @feuerwilliam on twitter.