German President Koehler Opens
Knesset Address in Hebrew

(IFM) German President Horst Koehler, addressing the Knesset Wednesday to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ties between Israel and Germany, stunned the parliament when he began his speech in Hebrew, the Jerusalem Post reported. Several MKs had called on Koehler to deliver his remarks in any language other than German out of consideration for the memory of Holocaust victims, but Koehler declined.

Koehler, speaking in Hebrew, said he was "grateful" and "deeply moved" to have been invited to address the Knesset in Jerusalem. He then continued his speech in German, detailing the ties between the countries.

"Germany will always stand by Israel and its people," he said in a gentle voice that shook when he spoke about the victims of the Holocaust. He said Germany would ensure that Israel can "live within internationally recognized borders, free of fear and terror."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the occasion was "not easy" for many members of Knesset. He termed the relations between the countries as "complicated, warm, and close." The German president noted that there could never be "normality" in ties between the two countries.

The visit by Koehler comes only a week after the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Kohler took part in the ceremonies.