International - 13.04.2015

Mannheim and Haifa celebrate the commencement of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel 50 years ago

On the occasion of the 50-year jubilee of the commencement of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel the Israeli city Haifa invited its five German twin cities, amongst them Mannheim, for a celebration to Israel which also served a deepening of the international cooperation between the cities. In the context of an expert exchange the participating delegations attended to the issue of integration in cities characterised by diversity and the concomitant challenges for local politics.

It became apparent that the city of Haifa, being a role model for successful communal life of varied religions and cultures within Israel, undertakes great efforts to ensure especially the fast integration of a large group of Ethiopian immigrants. For that purpose the administration of Haifa launched a comprehensive program which offers support for the areas of work, language acquisition, family and education as well as health.

Mannheim’s Mayor Dr Peter Kurz who was accompanied by the head of the department for international affairs and integration, David Linse, as well as city’s representative for integration, Claus Preißler, outlined the approaches and challenges of integration politics in Mannheim by reference to the immigration from South-East-Europe and the dialogue of religions. “Integration stands first and foremost for social integration” so Mayor Dr Kurz. “If persons of Turkish origin have no equal access to the private housing market just on the grounds of their names, a feeling of participation cannot be generated.” Dr Kurz also elaborated on the significance of responsibility being taken over by the immigrant population and referred to the positive example of a nursery school in Mannheim being administered by Muslims. Existing problems of immigration societies should not be concealed. The foundation of a successful coexistence is a common ground of values which find expression in an open society.

The protocolar highlight of the jubilee event was the signing of a declaration of intent by the twin cities in the presence of the German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis. The six cities agreed to an expansion of the already existing relations to include the issues of integration, innovation and creativity. In concrete terms the exchange of expert delegations between technological and academic institutions from the participating cities is planned. Further joint projects under the auspices of the Mayors are to follow. In his acknowledgements to the city of Haifa Mayor Dr Kurz said: “The lively connection between our cities demonstrates that town-twinning is not only an element of understanding among nations but also an important foundation for the exchange of experiences and joint development of solutions for problems.”

The return visit of Mayor Yona Yahav was also agreed upon. It is planned that he will visit Mannheim for a special event in October 2015 which will also address the issues integration and migration and continue the in Haifa initiated exchange.

The German twin cities of Haifa, besides Mannheim there is Bremen, Düsseldorf, Erfurt and Mainz, were represented by their respective Mayors and in the case of Bremen by the President of Bremen’s State Parliament.  The Mayor of the city of Düsseldorf had to cancel his participation at short notice though due to the plane crash at the beginning of that week. Haifa’s Mayor Yona Yahaf extended his deepest sympathies to all German guests.

The city of Haifa is the third largest town in Israel and a technological hub in the country. With Mannheim it has a contract for friendly relations since 2005 and the town twinning was formalised in 2009. Meetings take place regularly on most diverse levels from school exchanges to scientific cooperation. Social projects in Haifa, especially in the area of coexistence of Jews and Arabs as well as the integration of immigrants are supported by the Haifa-Foundation.  The city of Mannheim has the management of the non-profit association of friends of the Haifa-Foundation.