BAD KISSINGEN

 

"Friendship is not only a valuable gift, it is also an ongoing task",

Bad Kissingen Sister City 2 - Copy

These are the words quoted by then Mayor of the Bad Kissingen district, Mr. Herbert Neder, in 1997 when he signed the Tamar Region / Bad Kissingen partnership document. It is in reference to what is important for building a partnership relationship between two regions so far apart not only in distance but in culture, environment, and customs. A lot of work, dedication and passion is what goes into a successful, mutual co-operation contract that would lead the two regions into a common future.

 

The idea behind the rural district partnership was, and still is, the interweaving of both regions in order to create a connection between the communities – especially the youth, the businesses, education and the local authorities, The ultimate goals being reduced prejudices, stronger friendships and a greater understanding for each other.

 

At the onset, this particular marriage was questionable!  Could such a long-distance relationship be maintained in the short and long term? A connection of this kind cannot exist pro forma on paper but must serve as an example to the outside world in order to encourage other great partnerships.

 

Initially, back in 1997 the differences between the two regions were not ideal and did not inspire success. The geography, population and infrastructure were poles apart.  The Tamar region comprises of 1,650 sq. km. and Bad Kissingen an area of 1,137 sq. km., which is not such a great difference but with 1,300 registered inhabitants and 103,106 respectively, the anomaly is obvious.  But the commonalities: tourism and health tourism were enough to get this association off the ground and today these commonalities have enabled all the other connections to be accomplished.

 

Now, as we approach the 25th anniversary year, we can honestly look back and give credit to the dedication, passion and hard work that a lot of people on both sides have invested.

THE BEGINNING

The partnership began, quite by chance, back in 1980.  Kibbutz Ein Gedi received a letter from Bad Kissingen, written by a gentleman by the name of Gunther Bender, who was responsible for organizing a youth exchange.  At that time, a resident of the Kibbutz, Mr. Yoske Ereli, (German by origin), was asked to translate the letter.  Mr. Ereli, who had fled to Palestine in 1938 at the age of 17, was surprised and delighted to read the letter that had come from his hometown.  After a lot of discussion and negotiations with the various authorities, a three week visit by Bad Kissingen youth was confirmed for the summer of that same year – 1980.

Yoske was given the task of looking after the group. Meeting people from his hometown again was an exciting and emotional event. Yoske, who was working at the Ein Gedi Hotel at the time, marketing the hotel to Germany, visited his native country twice a year including several trips to Bad Kissingen and so the relationship between the two regions flourished.

In 1991, the then Mayor of the Tamar Regional Council, Mr. Yoav Givati, visited Bad Kissingen and discussions took place about creating a ‘cooperation agreement for a partnership based on the health tourism sector’.  This was considered to be advantageous to both regions.  The years went by with the two sides eager to create the partnership and so in 1997 another youth exchange took place, initiated by Yoske, who was described as a ‘tireless engine for the partnership’ by Mr. Herbert Neder.

According to the partnership officer of the Bad Kissingen district, Stefan Seufert, the partnership would never have come about without Yoske's personal friendships in Bad Kissingen and with the district administrators.  


From left: Mayors Thomas Bold and Dov Litvinoff, Yoske Ereli (partnership founder), former Mayor Herbert Neder (2002)

On February 26, 1997, the two district administrators Yoav Givati ​​and Herbert Neder finally signed the certificate in the Bad Kissingen district office, which sealed the partnership. It stipulated that “the partnership should promote mutual understanding and friendship between the citizens of the Bad Kissingen district and the Tamar district and thus contribute to understanding between the two peoples”. The focus of the connection was and still is, primarily friendship, the exchange of youth and culture groups (all ages) and to promote tourism between to the two regions.

A DYNAMIC AND EXTRAORDINARY CONNECTION

Since then, the partnership has expressed itself on many different levels.  On the one hand the youth exchange programme and on the other athletes from Bad Kissingen and its surrounding districts take part in the annual marathon at the Dead Sea – originally a half marathon in the name of two fallen youths of Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Giora and Tomer Ron (brothers). Until today, the German delegation never fails to visit the Dead Sea region to take part in the annual international, now full, marathon. Diverse group exchanges such as musicians, choirs, dancers, business/tourism representatives, local politicians and community members have enjoyed being hosted by their counterparts.


Meetings have taken place, over the years, at international conferences for twin cities, international economic assemblies and campaigns in the area of education and training have been created by both districts in order to promote the benefits of sister city relationships. But the partnership mainly lives from its personal contacts and friendships that have flourished over the years.
 

The late Yoske Ereli's legacy      

In 2005, Mr. Yoav Givaty, past Mayor of Tamar and founding member of the partnership, sadly passed away.  Mr. Thomas Bold, current Mayor of Bad Kissingen, Mr. Herbert Neder, past Mayor of Bad Kissingen and Mr. Stefan Steufert, local government official travelled to Ein Gedi to the funeral.  This is the level of friendship that has been established. 

In 2007 the partnership celebrated a decade of companionship.  Members of the Bad Kissingen district travelled to the Dead Sea, comprising of councillors, athletes, youth and community residents to take part in the half marathon and enjoy celebratory events.  In addition, Yoske was named ‘Honorary chairman of the partnership and 2009 he was also honoured with the Federal Cross of Merit (the only civic decoration in Germany).  Sadly, Yoske died in 2014 at the age of 93 and peopled mourned on both sides, with yet again a very dignified representation from Bad Kissingen present at the funeral.  “He was a role model and it is our job to preserve his legacy in the spirit of the partnership” said Thomas Bold in recognition of Yoske’s contribution to the affiliation.

UNTIL TODAY

In 2004, Mr. Dov Litvinoff, member of Kibbutz Ein Ged,i was elected as Mayor of the Tamar Regional Council.  Dov was a great believer in the partnership and the relationship just continued to go from strength to strength.  In 2012, Bad Kissingen requested that an emissary from Tamar would travel to Germany and spend a year with the youth, with the intention of bringing an even greater understanding between the two cultures.  Boaz Amir, born and raised on Kibbutz Ein Gedi, aged 24 at the time, was selected for this position.  He had no knowledge of the German language and very little knowledge of what was really required of him but, nonetheless, he boarded the plane and embarked on the challenge and adventure. 

He was warmly greeted, provided with private accommodation, and sent on a three month course to learn the language.  He was introduced to the youngsters, aged 9 – 16, and transformed himself into a confident, intrepid youth counsellor!  He was responsible for the social activities, group enterprises, teambuilding and pedagogical events. The language barrier was broken down almost immediately because of the charm, fun and sheer will to ensure that there would not be any boundaries at all.  Whilst Boaz was the only one to fill this position, the youth exchange programme is still running until today with great fervor and enthusiasm.

Today, 2020, our new Mayor, Mr. Nir Wanger, is not unfamiliar with the Bad Kissingen partnership.  He, Nir, was also born and raised in Kibbutz Ein Gedi and worked most of his working life in tourism at Ein Gedi Hotel.  All the visitors, over the years, have been greeted by Mr. Wanger and now in his capacity as Chairman of the region he will continue to invest in this unique and extraordinary rapport and hopefully in 2022 we will all have the opportunity once again to shake hands (COVID-19 permitting!) with old companions and new friends.  If the skies will be open to the public in February 2021, there is absolutely no doubt that we will have the enormous pleasure of greeting our dear friends at the Dead Sea Marathon.

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