Germany

Germany is Europe’s largest economy, most populous nation and an influential voice in European institutions. An important global player, it boasts the fourth largest economy in the world. The country has significant influence over Israel’s relations with Europe, advocates for growing economic and scientific ties, and has sponsored several key agreements between the EU and Israel.

Germany is traditionally regarded as Israel’s second most important strategic ally after the United States. With total bilateral trade amounting to $13.9 billion in 2019, Germany is Israel’s largest trade partner in Europe. Both countries share important strategic interests in the Middle East, including combating terrorism and extremism, while promoting regional stability and peace. Germany supports various Israeli defense projects and plays a key role vis-a-vis Iran. The German government led efforts to place Hezbollah’s military wing on the EU’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

Israel’s security and well-being have been a fundamental pillar of German post-war foreign policy. Chancellor Angela Merkel characterized Germany’s support for Israel’s right to exist to its raison d’état. The painful history of relations between the Jewish people and Germany continues to have a profound impact on political ties between Israel and Germany. But German sympathy for Israel is eroding, as the generation after the Holocaust is succeeded by grandchildren and great-grandchildren for whom the past is less immediate. It is one of the great challenges to maintain the high level of bilateral relations and to keep Israel on top of the Ger-man political agenda. Moreover, it is paramount for both countries to find out how much they actually have in common, the interests and values they share, that go far beyond the well-known ties of history.

ELNET in Germany

ELNET was established in Berlin in 2014 and is an independent non-profit organization. It facilitates closer relations between Germany and Israel on the basis of shared democratic interests and values. Together with its affiliates in Israel, France, Poland and Belgium, ELNET-Germany fosters the ties between European and Israeli decision makers and builds a network with its dialogue programs and delegations.

The State of Europe-Israel Relations: Key Insights from the 2024 Israel Survey

The Israel Survey 2024 offers valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of Europe-Israel relations. With growing support for Israel, a heightened focus on defense cooperation and a call to address antisemitism, European MPs are setting the stage for stronger ties and collaborative efforts. The survey highlights the significance of the Abraham Accords and the need for reform in international organizations like UNRWA.

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Carsten Ovens

Chief Executive Officer, ELNET-Germany
Carsten Ovens is the Executive Director of ELNET Germany since March 2019. With almost two decades of experience in politics, i.a. as a Member of the Hamburg State Parliament, he devoted his work to the German-Israeli relations with a focus on innovation and startups for many years. Beforehand, Carsten worked in business development and management consulting throughout Europe, as a lecturer on marketing and communications at several leading universities, and as a researcher on social media communication effects on politics and society.

Janika Bratvogel

Deputy Director, ELNET-Germany
Janika Bratvogel has been working in the field of foreign and security politics in Berlin, Washington D.C., and Bonn for over a decade and has extensive experience in bringing together high-level politicians and officials. She has been Deputy Director at ELNET-Germany since its founding in 2014. Prior to that, she worked on transatlantic security issues for the German Atlantic Association in Berlin and the Hanns-Seidel Foundation in Washington D.C. Janika earned her MA degree in North American Studies, Political Science, and Anglo-American History at the Universities of Bonn, Cologne, and Oviedo, Spain.

Marius Strubenhoff

Program Manager, ELNET-Germany
Marius Strubenhoff has been involved in politics in Germany as well as the United Kingdom and has gained work experience with several German political organisations. He has particular expertise on German politics and history and specialised in the history of the Holocaust while working as a Lecturer at the University of Sheffield before joining ELNET. He has also worked with the British deradicalisation programme "Prevent" in relation to antisemitism and Holocaust denial. After reading history at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics and Political Science, Marius completed a PhD on Ralf Dahrendorf at Cambridge.

Lea Ledwon

Program Manager of the GIHF-AI,
ELNET-Germany
Lea Ledwon has extensive experience in the German healthcare sector. Before joinig ELNET, she was responsible for the communication work of several clinics, she managed the office of the Freundeskreis der Charité e.V. She also lived in Israel for several years and worked at the Peres Center for Peace. She has a B.A. in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy from the Reichman University IDC Herzliya and a M.A. in Peace & Conflict Management Studies from the University of Haifa. At ELNET, she is the Program Manager of the German Israeli Health Forum for Artificial Intelligence (GIHF-AI).

Elisabeth Spiegel

Team Manager, ELNET-Germany​
Elisabeth Spiegel is Team Manager at ELNET-Germany and primarily responsible for financial accounting and controlling. She acts as the central contact for all ELNET offices as well as external partners and supports the strategic development of ELNET-Germany. Previously, she worked as a Customer Success Manager at a FinTech company and for several years as an office manager as well as in human resources. She holds a double bachelor degree BA/B.Sc. in Public Administration and European Studies as well as a M.A in Administrative Sciences.
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Francesca Fassbender

Project Coordinator, ELNET-Germany​
Francesca Fassbender joined ELNET in August 2023 as a Project Coordinator for Foreign and Security Policy. She earned her undergraduate degree in Economics from Humboldt University Berlin and continued her academic journey with a Master's in Public Policy and Conflict Resolution in Tel Aviv. Francesca's professional background includes valuable experience in Israeli NGOs and Think Tanks, complemented by her extensive academic research. Her expertise lies in the dynamics of the Abraham Accords and the strategic application of environmental and economic cooperation for peacebuilding.
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John-William Boer

Project Coordinator, ELNET-Germany​
John-William Boer is Project Coordinator at ELNET-Germany. He focuses on foreign and security policy. Previously, he worked at the political communications agency 365 Sherpas, where he supported clients in the digital, health, and public sector. Boer also worked as a freelancer for the German magazine “International Politics”. He studied political science and economics in Lüneburg and completed a master’s degree in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London.
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Linda-Charlotte Liedel

Project Coordinator, ELNET-Germany
Linda-Charlotte Liedel has been working at ELNET in Berlin since January 2024 as a project coordinator in the area of ​​combating anti-Semitism. She completed her bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights cum laude from Harvard University in 2022. During her studies, she completed a semester abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After graduating, she worked for a year as a volunteer in an Israeli women's shelter and with Jewish seniors of German origin. She speaks Hebrew fluently and is enthusiastically learning Yiddish.
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Sven Tobias Eck

Project Coordinator, ELNET-Germany​
Sven Tobias Eck joined ELNET Germany in April 2024 as Program Manager for Partnerships and Organizational Development. Previously, he worked as a fundraising manager for several NGOs in the German cultural sector. He holds an M.A. in History and a B.A. in Ancillary and Basic Historical Sciences from the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. During his studies, he specialized in Jewish history, the history of European state-building and the preservation of cultural heritage.
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Maria El

Project Assistant, ELNET-Germany​
Maria El has been working as a Project Assistant in the area of ​​anti-Semitism for the Berlin office at ELNET since November 2023. She studies political science and French philology with a focus on Israeli foreign policy. Previously, Maria specialized in English, French and international studies in Tübingen and Montpellier. She is also committed to civil society against anti-Semitism and advocates for deeper German-Israeli cooperation.

Executive Board Members »

Dr. Ulf Gartke

Dr. Ulf Gartzke helped launch ELNET-Germany and served on its Board from 2014-2018 before being re-elected in February 2024. He serves as the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Brainloop AG, a leading European SaaS provider, previously serving as its CEO. Based in Washington, DC, between 2004-2013, Dr. Gartzke served as Director of the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation’s Washington office, There he was responsible for relations with the United States and Canada. Additionally, he worked at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and the World Bank in Paris. Dr. Gartzke studied at the University of Augsburg and holds advanced degrees from Georgetown University and Sciences Po Paris, as well as a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Hans Thomas Kessler

Hans Thomas Kessler is a commercial lawyer specializing in the real estate transactions and finance, as well as infrastructure projects. He has advised numerous real estate investors, owners, financial institutions, construction and engineering firms. Mr. Kessler has worked for several leading International law firms. He studied law and political science at the Universities of Frankfurt, Lausanne, Geneva and Strasbourg, earned the LL.M. at the London School of Economics and Political Science and was a Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Advisory Board Members »

Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Bender

Prof. Dr. Bender is Senior Advisor and Chairman of the Fraport AG, owner and operator of Frankfurt airport and some thirty airports worldwide. Prior to that, he worked as CEO of Schenker & Co and led the industrial association “Verkehrsforum Bahn”. Today, he serves on various supervisory and advisory boards in the fields of finance, air-travel cargo, and sports.

Kerstin Müller

Kerstin Müller is a Senior Associate Fellow at the renowned DGPA - German Council on Foreign Relations. Before she held various political positions, including chairwoman of the Green parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office, and foreign affairs spokesperson of the Greens in the Bundestag. Following her career in German politics, she previously headed the office of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in Israel.

Karin Prien

Karin Prien is the current minister for education, science and cultural affairs of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. and Vice-Chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Schleswig-Holstein. In 2011, she was elected to the state senate of the federal state of Hamburg. Since 2018 Karin Prien has also served as spokesperson of the Jewish Forum within the CDU.

Ariel Schiff

Ariel Schiff is the founder and CEO of the Berlin-based AMANO Group. Founded in 2009 together with Artur Süsskind, the group’s portfolio comprises seven hotels in several German cities with more international projects currently underway. In 2019, Ariel Schiff received the award for hotelier of the year.

Richard C. Schneider

Richard C. Schneider is a journalist, author and documentary filmmaker. After studying German language and literature, theater studies, art history and philosophy, he worked at various theaters in Bonn, Munich, Amsterdam and Vienna. For about 35 years he worked as a television journalist for ARD, where he also headed the studios in Tel Aviv and Rome. Since 2021, he has been writing about Israel and the Palestinian Territories for SPIEGEL magazine and regularly contributes to national and international print media. Moreover, he is the author of several books, most recently "The Question of Israel. Five questions about a complicated country”, published by DVA/randomhouse.

Dr. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann

Dr. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann is the Chairwoman of the Defence Committee of the German Bundestag, a member of the Executive Committee of the FDP parliamentary group, and a member of the FDP’s executive committee. Before and during her political activities on the federal level, she was involved in local politics in her hometown of Düsseldorf for almost 25 years and served as mayor for several years. In close cooperation with the Jewish Community, she has consistently fought antisemitism and supported Israel’s security as a matter of German national interest. In 2023, the Jewish Community of Düsseldorf awarded her the Josef Neuberger Medal for her commitment.

Axel Wallrabenstein

Axel Wallrabenstein has been the Chairman of the MSLGROUP Germany since 2008. Before coming to the MSLGROUP he founded and managed the Publicis Public Relations agency (later called Publicis Consultants Germany). Additionally, he serves as head of the advisory board of the German association for digital affairs as well as head of the advisory board of the AllBright Foundation.

Brigitte Zypries

Brigitte Zypries served as German Minister for Justice from 2002 until 2009 and as Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy from 2017 until 2018. Before taking on the responsibility of leading the Ministry for Economic Affairs and energy, she was tasked with coordinating the fields of IT, air- and space- travel of the ministry as Secretary of State. Brigitte Zypries served as a Member of the German Bundestag for the German Social Democrats from 2005 until 2017.