German president launches Israel visit

German president launches Israel visit

JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
Germany's new president has begun a state visit to Israel, his first official trip to the Jewish state.

Joachim Gauck was welcomed with an honor guard as he met his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres on Tuesday. Although both men hold largely ceremonial jobs, the visit is significant for its deep symbolism.

Israel was founded in the wake of the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany led the murder of 6 million European Jews. Today Germany is Israel's strongest ally in Europe.

Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor and East German pro-democracy activist, took office in March.

Gauck will visit Israel's national Holocaust memorial and meet with the Palestinians during this week's visit.