In Palestine the following joke was told in the 1930s: “Do you come from conviction or from Germany?” The “Jeckes” or “Jekkes”, as the German-speaking immigrants were called, were the subject of many jokes - which they themselves liked in German told.

Because these new Palestinians cultivated the language, culture and customs of the old in their new homeland.

Admittedly, their children, who grew up fighting for the Jewish state, were shocked by the Eichmann trial, were busy making career progress and themselves were starting families, often did not want to know anything about Germany.

When the old people died, their beloved German books ended up in the wonderful second-hand bookshops in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where you can still discover rare first editions, their heavy German furniture on the junk.

But the grandchildren - many of them now with a German second passport - are rediscovering their legacy and are interested in Germany and the contribution of German Jews to building up Israel.


Because it is not true that nobody came to Palestine from Germany voluntarily.

The architect and town planner Richard Kauffmann, who immigrated to the British mandate in 1920 after his military service for the emperor and fatherland and shaped the face of the future state, may represent the many German Zionists.

Kauffmann designed cooperatives and kibbutzim, entire cities and districts, such as the White City in Tel Aviv and Rehavia in Jerusalem.

Thomas Sparr's beautiful book about Rehavia - this “Grunewald in the Orient”, primarily inhabited by Germans - will be published in English these days, which shows the newly awakened interest of the grandchildren in Israel and the USA in the German-Jewish heritage.

But where do the young Israelis find this legacy documented?

Unfortunately not in the Jewish Museum Berlin, which to this day treats Israel more like an embarrassment, just as Germany used to be an embarrassment for the Jeckes' children.

In Israel itself, thanks to the initiative of a single man and the generosity of a patron, there is at least a “Museum of German-speaking Jewry”, colloquially known as the Jeckes Museum.

Ruthi Ofek is the director of the Jeckes Museum

Source: picture alliance / Stefanie Järkel / dpa


The teacher Hans Herbert Hammerstein, born in Berlin in 1901, fled from the Nazis to Palestine, called himself Yisrael Shiloni from then on, and from family and friends gathered material for the archive and museum, which he opened on his own initiative in 1968.

In his will he bequeathed his life's work to the German-born industrialist and philanthropist Stef Wertheimer, who is considered the richest man in Israel.

Wertheimer gave the museum rooms in the first of the rural “industrial parks” he developed: Tefen, in the western Galilee.

Last year, however, the children of the now 94-year-old Patriarch Wertheimer stopped sponsoring the museum.

The rooms in the industrial park have been terminated.

Thanks to German support - from the Foreign Office and the German Academic Exchange Service - the future of the Jeckes Museum should be secure.


In future it will be part of the museum of the University of Haifa - the Hecht Museum - supported by the Haifa Center for German and European Studies (HCGES) at the university and the Association of Central European Jews in Israel.

The archive is digitized and put online, the collection is scientifically maintained.

The move is good news.

Alongside Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the city of Haifa was one of the centers of German-Jewish life in Palestine - later Israel - and more easily accessible and more attractive than Tefen for tourists and Israelis alike.

The scientific supervision will do the museum good.

However, so far neither the moving costs nor the future current expenses have been fully covered.

More German generosity is required.

It's not a lot of money.

According to the HCGES, a one-off lack of 630,000 euros for moving and renovation costs and 260,000 annual costs for ongoing operations.

For comparison: the federal government has jumped 30 million euros for the new permanent exhibition and the children's museum in the Jewish Museum Berlin alone.

The term "Jecke" for the German-born Jews in Israel may come from the carnival jesters.

Because the German Jews behaved "foolishly"

Source: picture-alliance / dpa

In a year as we celebrate 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany, we should also appreciate the fact that the Jewish emigrants - whether as staunch Zionists or as expellees - took a piece of Germany with them.

You have made a major contribution to the modernization of Palestine and the creation of Israel.

Cooperation with the national Jewish Museum in Berlin and other Jewish museums and funding from the funds of the Federal Commissioner for Culture would be more than appropriate.

Perhaps this will succeed in attracting more attention to the Jeckes in their old homeland.

Monika Grütters, take over!