Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Special Christmas Declassification

Here's a little story about Christmas. Or, if not about, at least on, Christmas.

Israel, being a Jewish state with a large Muslim minority, doesn't "do" Christmas. Individuals are welcome to, of course, but insitituons, agencies, schools and businesses all operate as if it were a perfectly normal day. The declassifiers at the State Archive also come to work. Earlier this afternoon one of them showed me a letter he'd just declassified in his routine task of opening files from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the only reason he brought it to my attention was that its subject was one Cardinal Ratzinger - just the kind of person one thinks of on Christmas, given the speech he gave earlier today.

The letter was written on October 13, 1982 by Israel's ambassador to Germany, Michael ben Ari, to Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's mayor. Kollek had just met the ambassador in Frankfurt (while on a fundraising junket, it's safe to assume). Following up on the conversation, Ben Ari informed Kollek that Dr. Lamm, the head of the Jewish community in Munich, had spoken to Cardinal Ratzinger. The future Pope had recently met with Yasser Arafat, and Lamm had suggested that he also meet Teddy Kollek (these were the years when the Vatican had not yet recognized Israel). The Cardinal thought this was a fine idea, and Ben Ari was now launching the preparations.

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