Though highly critical of rising antisemitism in Europe, especially from ultra right neo Fascist groups, President Reuven Rivlin was particularly gracious in greeting Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the President’s Residence on Tuesday.

Kurz, who in contrast to other European leaders had no problem with visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, struck an appreciative chord in Rivlin, who, as a seventh generation native son of Jerusalem, is one of its staunchest advocates.

Kurz told the President that he and his government are strongly committed to being “a supportive player for Israel and its security.”

In discussing Austria’s commitment to Israel and its own Jewish community, Kurz emphasized his intention to strengthen bilateral relations with Israel and to continue to fight antisemitism in his country.

Kurz who has been outspoken on that subject in the past, and the need to atone for Austria’s role in the Holocaust, pledged that he would make the streets of Austria safe.

While in Israel on this occasion, and also during a previous visit as Foreign Minister, he had been to Yad Vashem, and both these visits had made a strong impression on him.

Warm and welcoming though he was towards Kurz, Rivlin reiterated his belief that notwithstanding the complexities of politics in Europe and the world at large, one cannot claim to be a friend of Israel, and at the same time be involved in racist and anti-Semitic activities.

Commenting that the Holocaust is still a central issue in Jewish life, Rivlin gave Kurz a copy of Amichai Greenberg’s recently screened film The Testament, which was co-produced with the Austrian Film Institute. Though a work of fiction, the film is based on a true story of a Holocaust researcher who is determined to find the mass grave of Jews murdered during the Holocaust in the Austrian village of Landsdorf.

“We are intertwined not only because of the present and the future, but of course because of the terrible past of the Holocaust,” Rivlin told Kurz, adding that the Holocaust continues to find expression in Jewish literature, art, film and culture.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN speaks with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday.