The extremely close Ashkelon mayoral elections were called in favor of acting mayor Tomer Glam, marking a loss for suspended mayor Itamar Shimoni, who is on trial on charges of bribery and breach of trust.
Itamar Shimoni had been trailing his rival by 200 votes with almost all ballots counted. After the ballots of IDF soldiers and prisoners were tallied, it emerged that Tomer Glam had won by just 350 votes.
Itamar Shimoni, 50, was elected mayor in 2013. He was suspended in 2017. Since then, deputy mayor Tomer Glam was acting.
On 4 May, our association participated in this year’s Israel Day which was organized by the German-Israeli Society. We were happy to welcome a great number of interested visitors, including numerous people from Pankow, the chairman of the Jewish community of Berlin, Gideon Joffe, and the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller.
On 14 May 2018, the State of Israel will celebrate its 70th birthday. Between 13 and 16 May 2018, Berlin’s Pankow district will be represented in Ashkelon by a delegation headed by district mayor Sören Benn. This delegation will also include members of Pankow’s district parliament and Freundeskreis members.
During our trip, we will visit Ashkelon, take a look at the latest urban development projects, visit a kibbutz and meet with new and old partners and organizations in the field of education, sports and culture.
The goals of the trip are to:
continue the existing relations between Pankow and its twin town;
arrange a meeting between district mayor Sören Benn and its counterpart in Ashkelon, Mr Tomer Glam;
arrange a meeting between deputies from Pankow and Ashkelon; and
prepare the 25th anniversary of the town twinning.
To kick off the new year, we would like to inform you of our upcoming projects and events.
New Year’s reception
On 19 January, 7pm, Zukunftswerkstatt Heinersdorf und Freizeithaus e.V. will host a New Year’s reception in Berlin’s Heinersdorf district. This reception will also be an opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Zukunftswerkstatt. The hosts would be pleased to welcome members of the Freundeskreis and those interested as their guests. We therefore kindly invite you to join us and take the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with the hosts, Freundeskreis members and other guests.
The reception will take place in Margaretensaal, a room belonging to the Margaretenhof complex of buildings. Having been classified a historical monument, this complex is used by the Protestant church community in Heinersdorf. Address: Romain-Rolland-Straße 53.
Visit to Israel in 2018
On 14 May 2018, the state of Israel will celebrate its 70th anniversary. In Ashkelon, the district of Pankow will be represented by a delegation headed by district mayor Sören Benn who is also a Freundeskreis member. Other members of the the association Freundeskreis Berlin Pankow-Ashkelon will also take this anniversary as an occasion to visit Ashkelon.
The visit will take place between 10/13 May and 15/19 May. During our trip, we want to explore Ashkelon and its surroundings and meet both long-time and new partners and organizations. If requested by participants, we would also be willing to plan joint visits to various sights in Israel, for example.
To discuss the details and make organizational arrangements, we plan to meet with participants and anyone interested in visiting Ashkelon with us at Café Nord (corner of Grunowstraße 21 and Schulstraße) on 19 January 2018, 4.30pm. From there, we will go directly to Heinersdorf to attend the above-mentioned New Year’s reception.
On 7 December 2017, our board member Renate Schmid informed the committee on advanced training, cultural affairs and town twinnings of Pankow’s district parliament of our plan to visit Ashkelon, attracting broad interest among the deputies who will discuss this issue again in January.
Trinational sport camp
In 2018, we will stage a trinational sport camp together with the association promoting the town twinning between Pankow and the Polish city of Kołobrzeg (Verein der Freunde Kolbergs e.V.), the Prenzlauer Berg sport youth club and ALBA Berlin. We plan to carry out volleyball and basketball camps in Berlin, Ashkelon and Kołobrzeg for young persons aged between 14 and 16, thereby contributing to the 30th anniversary of this town twinning. We hope that this will become a successful and integral part of our town twinning scheme.
Between 28 October and 4 November 2017, 14 colleagues from Pankow’s socio-psychiatric service and two colleagues from the counseling centre for disabled persons visited Israel for advanced training purposes.
In Ashkelon, the group met with Mayer Tomer Glam, for example, and visited different social institutions.
On 21 June 2017, Christof Lewek, member of the association Freundeskreis Berlin Pankow-Ashkelon and head of the recreation centre in Berlin’s Weißensee district, hosted this year’s plenary assembly. We are very happy to welcome two new members to our association: Mr Sören Benn (party Die Linke), district mayor of Berlin Pankow, and Mr Michael Gericke, non-medical practitioner.
Agenda items included the report of the board on the activities carried out between 2015 and 2017, the cash report, the approval of the activities undertaken by the previous board and the election of the new board members. Ines Koenen (chair), Stefanie Gronau (deputy chair) and Stefan Krause (treasurer) were unanimously re-elected as board members, while Natalie Zange (deputy chair) and Renate Schmid (assessor) were unanimously elected as new members.
At the plenary assembly, the association agreed to focus on the following projects in the next two years:
Intensifying cooperation with Pankow’s district administration and the deputies of the district parliament;
Stolpersteingruppe Pankow and Freundeskreis Berlin Pankow-Ashkelon invite you to help clean stumbling blocks in Alt-Pankow and Niederschönhausen to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Stumbling blocks, known as Stolpersteine in Germany, are cobblestone-sized blocks bearing the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution. Intended to pay tribute to those murdered or persecuted by the Nazis, they are laid right into the pavement and can be found in front of many houses all over Europe.
Between 22 and 25 October 2015, Freundeskreis chair Ines Koenen and her deputy Stefanie Gronau visited our twin town Ashkelon. Having received many guests from Ashkelon in Berlin to celebrate the anniversary of our town twinning agreement in 2014, we also wanted to pay them a visit. Furthermore, we wanted to present our idea of organizing an art camp. Although details still need to be discussed, the project seems to be promising. Both youth art schools are already in touch with each other.
We were especially keen to deepen the existing contacts. The screening of the documentary »Im Himmel unter der Erde« made an essential contribution to this endeavour. Sixty Israelis of all generations joined the screening, including many young people, representatives of the municipality and holocaust survivor Eva Erben. Being one of the historical witnesses interviewed for the video archive »Sprechen trotz allem«, she is widely known in Pankow. Eva Erben has already visited Pankow and signed the visitors’ book.
As always, we were offered a very warm welcome. We were impressed by the warmth and openness of the people we met. Everybody did their best to adapt the programme to our needs. Now that we have met the people of Ashkelon, we look forward to many new encounters and hope to extend our project work in the coming years.
Visit to Ashkelon’s youth art school
Screening of the documentary »Im Himmel unter der Erde« about the Jewish cemetery in Weißensee at the community centre in Ashkelon
Tour of Ashkelon’s archeological sites with Gad Sobol