State government launches reconstruction project for Israeli municipalities near the Gaza Strip
The NRW Government has launched a recovery project to enable local government in North Rhine-Westphalia to join the effort to rebuild Israeli partner municipalities that are located close to the Gaza Strip.
The press release is also available in Hebrew (PDF) and German.
The 7 October 2023 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel marks a turning point in the Middle East. The unprecedented massacre of over 1,400 people, including women, children and the elderly, and the abduction of 238 people into the Gaza Strip was the most devastating attack on Jewish life since the Shoah, with the aim of wiping out the Jewish population in the region.
In view of the numerous victims, the suffering caused and the devastating destruction, there can be no doubt that the reconstruction of the affected area along the border with the Gaza Strip is going to be a huge task. Against this backdrop, the NRW Government has launched a recovery project to enable local government in North Rhine-Westphalia to join the effort to rebuild Israeli partner municipalities that are located close to the Gaza Strip.
International Affairs Minister, Nathanael Liminski: ‘At this time in particular, we want to help those who are directly affected by Hamas’ terror. With this new programme, we, as state government, are working through our office in Israel to create new frameworks for our towns and cities to express their solidarity in tangible terms. In doing so, we are sending a clear signal: Where terrorists wanted to annihilate Jewish life, North Rhine-Westphalia will help make it flourish again.’
Some 30 cities in North Rhine-Westphalia are already have twin cities in Israel. However, until now, there have been no partnership arrangements with municipalities in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip. This is where the new project, ‘Shalom - Chaverut: Solidarity Partnerships NRW-Israel’ (Hebrew for peace and friendship) comes in to create new opportunities for initiating and implementing partnerships between municipalities or local council. The idea is to match NRW twin towns and districts with Israeli counterparts near the Gaza Strip. The partnership arrangements will involve joint initiatives to support reconstruction.
The State Government is earmarking 300,000 euros to support municipal and civil society projects for reconstruction in the affected areas. Funding will also be provided for projects that directly or indirectly benefit evacuees or residents of the border communities. Minister Liminski: ‘We are prioritising projects that will help establish lasting exchanges and strengthen relations between North Rhine-Westphalia and Israel. The first partnerships are being launched as we speak. As the public discourse in Germany becomes ever more muddied, we have to be ever clearer that we stand with the people of Israel and the Jewish community in Germany.’
The city of Essen is already making a start by entering a solidarity partnership – brokered by the NRW Government and joined by the city of Tel Aviv – with Ashkelon, one of the most shelled Israeli cities in this war. Mayor of Essen, Thomas Kufen: ‘With this partnership, we want to express our solidarity with Israel, provide tangible help to local people who are suffering from the conflict and at the same time support our long-standing sister city, Tel Aviv-Yafo, in this grim situation.’
In the presence of Minister Liminski, the directors of the University Hospital in Essen, Professor Dr Jochen A. Werner, and the Souraski Medical Centre in Tel Aviv, Professor Dr Ronni Gamzu, signed a declaration of intent to ramp up cooperation. Professor Werner: ‘For a year now, Essen University Hospital has been working intensively and successfully with the Souraski Medical Centre to advance research and healthcare. Based on that, it is now time to take the next step: We are taking our cooperation to the next level, proudly joining the programme, 'Shalom - Chaverut: Solidarity Partnerships between North Rhine Westphalia and Israel'. Professor Gamzu: ‘Joining forces with Essen University Hospital will significantly strengthen the help we are currently providing to Israeli victims who lived near the Gaza Strip. Post-traumatic stress disorder is very common among the victims and soldiers of the cruel terrorist attacks, so it is important to provide the right treatment early on to avoid long-term complications. The support we have received from both NRW and Essen is truly remarkable.’
Commenting on the letter of intent signed on Thursday, 2 November 2023, Minister Liminski said: ‘We have been working on this cooperation between the two leading medical establishments for some time. Now it comes at exactly the right time and sends a strong signal of cooperation in times of need. We are rolling up our sleeves, lending a hand to public healthcare near the Gaza Strip, a system that was hit hard and is facing multiple challenges. In addition to the physical suffering, we are also focussing on mental stress and psychological trauma. Along with this immediate emergency aid, two leading hospitals and research institutions will cooperate closely in the areas of digital health and trauma medicine."
Kicking off the new development project, Minister Liminski wrote to local government umbrella organisations in North Rhine-Westphalia to promote the participation of towns and cities in the new project and to establish further solidarity partnerships in Israel, working through the Office of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia for Economy, Science, Education, Youth and Culture in Israel. In consultation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy, the NRW.Global.Connect platform will be turned into a one-stop shop for NRW assistance to Israel. The platform will also serve as a contact point for all parties interested in bilateral projects.