There could be no doubt that the dress code recommendation on the formal invitation: “Business Attire” or “National Dress” was being taken seriously. Entering the Grand Ballroom at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, walking the red carpet to the reception line headed by her Excellency Penprapa Vongkovit, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the State of Israel; this was to be a grand event.
Exquisite flower arrangements adorned the main platform, but even more exciting was the display of fruit, carved into shapes and designs that had the guests lining up to photograph. Centerpiece of the display was a peacock, in all its glory, created from fruit, flowers and the amazing craftsmanship of these Thai ladies. Breathtaking in its beauty.
The cream of Thai society in Israel, with a mix of Israeli and foreign diplomats, business people, government VIPs and more, mingled and enjoyed the drinks, canapes and snacks followed by the generous buffet meal, featuring Thai cuisine. Among those present were Selvaraj Periyasamy Pillai, Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the State of Israel, Rangsan Maneeroj, Thai Minister-Councillor at the Thai Embassy, Harihar Poudel, First Secretary at the Nepalese Embassy, Liran Avitan, Head of the Asia Division of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, and others. Many people commented on the Thai silks, mostly but not always in pastel shades, that were the stars of the ladies’ gowns and many of the men’s jackets and suits. The atmosphere was beautiful but relaxed, a far cry from some other stiff and formal diplomatic gatherings.
Her Excellency Ambassador Vongkovit opened her address to the gathering by welcoming her guests and thanking them for attending. She pointed out that the National Day of Thailand was celebrated as the birthday anniversary of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and that the Thai nation has kept this day as its National Day in memory of late King’s reign. In addition, this day is also celebrated as Father’s Day in Thailand, as His Majesty was loved and respected as the “Father of the Nation” for His untiring work on development projects to improve the well-being of His people. She added that the 5th of December, one of the most significant days for Thai people, also marks the day United Nations General Assembly declared as “World Soil Day” - to promote and raise awareness of the importance of soil in agricultural development and national and international nutrition and food security.
The Ambassador was gracious in her comments on Thai-Israel bilateral diplomatic relations, stretching back some 63 years. “Our relationship remains as strong ever.Last year, over 160,000 Israeli tourists visited Thailand, and over 26,000 Thais now live and work in Israel, contributing to the economic development of this country. We are expanding our mutual cooperation in two key areas; labor and agriculture. Two-way trade reached $1.1 billion (US dollars); we hope to see this figure continue to rise with more frequent exchanges of business activities and delegations. We in Thailand have long admired Israel’s “economic miracle”, a result of a sustained policy of promoting research, development, and innovation”.
Her Excellency ended by expressing the hope for successful and mutual cooperation between Thailand and Israel in the years to come and wishing the guests a pleasant evening.
In response, Israel’s Minister of Communications, M.K. Ayoob Kara addressed the assembled guests. The Minister opened his remarks with congratulations - and condolences: “We congratulate the Thai people, and at the same time, express the condolences of the Israeli people on the passing of their late King (who served his people for over 70 years), and take advantage of this opportunity to wish many years of success to His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun in leading the nation in the future.”
The Minister reflected on the history of Thai-Israel relations: “Both countries have benefitted from the diplomatic relations that were established in the 1950s when Israel was just a few years old, and, like Thailand, was going through the difficult challenges of bringing a new country into being, especially in the context of the Middle East at the time. Today, the number of cooperative endeavors between Thailand and Israel has created a strong bond of friendship between us. Our joint projects span agriculture, medicine, academics and education, as well as defense and security, technology and more, each of them offering tremendous potential for deepening our relationship.
“The increase in trade between our two countries is high on our national agenda. We aspire to reach 2 billion US dollars by 2020.
“Thailand has long been one of the most attractive destinations for Israeli travelers thanks to its rich culture, its warm and hospitable people, its delicious culinary treasures and its remarkable natural beauty. Every year, approximately 160,000 Israeli tourists return from Thailand with the best of memories. We also try to expose the Thai people to Israeli culture by appearing in your various cultural events – dance, music, theater, etc.
“Before concluding, I would like to personally thank Your Excellency the Ambassador for all your efforts, and that of your staff, to promote relations between our two governments and peoples. May your country enjoy continued prosperity and success, and may the ties of friendship and cooperation between the Kingdom of Thailand and the State of Israel continue to flourish in the years ahead.”
The national anthems of the two countries were played, followed by a toast from Her Excellency: “Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
May I now invite all of you to join me in a toast to the good health of His Majesty the King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun of Thailand and His Excellency President Reuven Rivlin of the State of Israel, and to the everlasting friendship and cooperation between our two countries and peoples.”
The evening continued with a beautiful and artistic presentation of Thai music and dances, while guests continued to the rich dessert buffet with hot beverages.
The Directors and staff of the DIPLOMACY website are honored to send congratulations and good wishes to His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, to Thailand's Ambassador to Israel H.E. Ms. Penprapa Vongkovot, and to the people of Thailand.
Photos provided by Thai Embassy