Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again — too few to mention.
One of them is never learning to speak German. I know just a bit, and it isn’t enough.
SUCH was the status of German in the 19th century—for Europeans generally and for Jews in particular—that Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, once proposed making it the official language of a future state of Israel. In the event, devotees of Hebrew won out. After the Holocaust, German was particularly despised. But times change. Israeli 14- to 15-year-olds going back to school after the summer holidays now have the option of German as a foreign language for the first time at five public schools, to be followed by more.
German is also becoming popular among adult Israelis, and not only the more than 20,000 who have moved to Berlin in recent years. This reflects a broader shift in perceptions. Fifty years after Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations, 70% of Israelis have a positive view of the country, according to a poll by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German think-tank. Many find Germans honest and trustworthy. With the possible exception (at least lately) of Greece, people elsewhere agree, polls show.
This suggests a big gain for Germany in “soft power”. Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who coined the term in 1990, defines it as the ability of a country to hold international sway not by brandishing hard (military) power but by getting others to want what it wants. It is the value of being attractive culturally, commercially, gastronomically, ideologically, or indeed linguistically.
Germans, who are forever coping with their dark past, are thrilled by any suggestion that they are popular.