Heaven-bound, a Torah in Wannsee
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Heaven-bound, a Torah in Wannsee

Once the Nazis planned the Holocaust at the infamous Berlin villa; now Jews are writing a Torah scroll there

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The villa at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference was held. Today it is a memorial and museum. (photo credit: Adam Carr)
The villa at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference was held. Today it is a memorial and museum. (photo credit: Adam Carr)

In 1942, the Wannsee Villa near Berlin housed the infamous eponymous conference during which the Nazis planned and organized the Holocaust. Some 70 years later, a group of Jews gathered at the House of the Wannsee Conference southwest of the German capital to participate in the writing of a new Torah scroll.

About two years ago, El Al, Israel’s semi-national airline, initiated a project called “Torah Scroll for Israel Unity.” President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of the Israeli Olympic delegation, and many other Israeli and Jewish dignitaries from around the globe participated, writing a letter or more into the scroll. Last week, El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedy — the former Israel Air Force commander who is himself a son of Holocaust survivors — invited several German-Jewish leaders to each ink one of the Torah’s 304,805 letters at the historically charged location.

“The project is based on the desire to strengthen ties between the Jewish public in Israel and the rest of the world and EL AL Airlines, and to bring them closer to one another,” according to Skedy.

Three local rabbis and the head of Berlin’s Jewish community, as well as representatives of the Israeli embassy, took part in the ceremony, according to the German-Jewish weekly Juedische Allgemeine.

Benjamin Netayahu writes a letter in a Torah scroll on an airplane as he makes his way to visits the Czech Republic with his wife Sarah, May 17 2012. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netayahu writes a letter in a Torah scroll on an airplane as he makes his way to visits the Czech Republic with his wife Sarah, May 17 2012. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Once completed, the El Al Torah will be carried aboard “on special flights of national and historic significance,” the company said in a statement, in an apparent contradiction of  the biblical dictum that the Torah “is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12). When it is not high above the sky, the scroll will serve worshipers at the synagogue of the airline’s head office in Tel Aviv.

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