The embassies of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras hosted a lavish celebration at the Sheraton hotel in Tel Aviv on Thursday September 13, marking 197 years of Central American independence. The event showcased both the richness of Central America’s cultural diversity and the achievements of the respective countries, as well as the close ties and cooperation between Israel and the countries of central America.

 

Guests were greeted by the Ambassador of Costa Rica H.E. Mr. Esteban Penrod and his wife Suantzy; the Ambassador of Honduras H.E. Mr. Mario E. Castillo and his wife Arsinoe, the Ambassador of Guatemala H.E. Mr. Mario A. Bucaro and his wife Carina, and H.E. Mr. Hector E. Celari, the Charge d’Affaires of El Salvador. Along with the customary refreshments, guests enjoyed four colorful tables adorned with photos, ornaments, and souvenirs from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These displays brought some of Central America’s heritage to Tel Aviv, and set the stage for what was to come later in the evening.

 

Emma Maor, as the master of ceremonies, opened the evening by calling up the ambassadors, together with Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin. The national anthems of all five countries were then played.

 

Ambassador Bucaro, speaking on behalf of the Central American nations, addressed the audience next. The ambassador spoke about the importance of this anniversary from the Central American perspective, and how it recalled a key moment of unification and collaboration. In that sense, the ambassador discussed sharing the benefits and example of Central American cooperation with Israel and Israelis. He also mentioned the agricultural cooperation with Mashav, Israel’s agency for international development, and thanked the Keren Kayemet L'Israel for its support. Finally, the ambassador mentioned the excellent tourism opportunities in Central America that many Israelis have already realized, and expressed his hope that more Israelis will continue to visit the region.

 

 

Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin spoke next, representing the state of Israel. Minister Levin delivered his entire speech in Spanish. The minister mentioned his own recent visit to the region, including Guatemala and Honduras, and thanked Mr. Aguilar, director of INGUAT in  Guatemala, and Minister of Tourism in Honduras Mr. Silvestri, for their help in coordinating his trip. He invited the tourism ministers of all four countries to travel to Israel to participate in the tourism exhibition planned for February.

 

Minister Levin also mentioned the deep historical ties of friendship between Israel and the Central American nations. Costa Rica and Guatemala played key roles in gaining international support for the establishment of the state of Israel, while the consul general of El Salvador in Geneva, José Arturo Castellanos, saved the lives of thousands of Jews by granting them visas during World War II. Expressing hope that this strong friendship will continue to grow, the minister noted that Israel has requested to be admitted as an observer in SICA, the Central American Integration System. He concluded his remarks by wishing congratulations and blessings on behalf of the people and government of Israel.

 

Following the minister’s speech, a video was shown on stage, highlighting the sights, sounds, and colors of Central America. The theme was the magic of Central America, and the film did a good job of expressing that magic while explaining that to truly experience the beauty of Central America one has to visit in person. Following the video, the ambassadors and Minister Levin led a toast to the success of all of their nations. A second video followed this one featuring the accomplishments of the cooperation between Keren Kayemet L'Israel, and the Central American countries.

 

 

Mr. Ariel Goldgewicht, director of the Latin American department of Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) spoke on behalf of the KKL-JNF. Mr. Goldgewicht spoke about his pride, as both the KKL representative and a Central American himself, on the anniversary of Central American independence. He talked about how KKL-Central American cooperation has brought the nations closer together, and shared technological and agricultural innovation has benefitted all of the countries involved. Invoking the bravery of those who brought Central American independence in the early 19th century, Mr. Goldgewicht noted that today’s challenges are also daunting: climate change; food security; providing clean water, and that collaboration and shared creativity would once again hold the answer to collective success.

 

The ambassadors presented a gift basket to Mr. Goldgewicht, and another gift basket to the director of Mashav, Ambassador Gil Haskel. Following this formal portion of the evening, guests proceeded to a banquet in honor of the occasion, where they could continue the celebration.

 

Among the many distinguished guests in attendance were Ambassador Meron Reuben, chief of state protocol in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ambassador Moshe Bachar, former ambassador of Israel in Guatemala; Ambassador Yosef Livne, former ambassador of Israel to El Salvador, Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan, head of the Israeli Center for Young Leaders and the Israel School for Young Ambassadors; Itsik Kamilian, C.E.O. of the School for Young Ambassadors; Gabriel Hayon, CEO, of the Israel-Latin American Chamber of Commerce; Dyana Cordero, Director of the Trade Office of Costa Rica in Israel; Lian Lara International Coordinator of the International Affairs Division of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel; Consuls Javier Rojas (Costa Rica); Carlos Meyer (Guatemala); Julio Tercero (Honduras); Franco Vella, general manager of the Sheraton, and Jane Yacoubzadi, public relations manager at the Sheraton.

 

Diplomacy.co.il congratulates the embassies of Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala and Honduras, and offers best wishes for continued success and strong bilateral relations with Israel.

Photos by Silvia G. Golan
 
Steven Aiello
Founder--DebateforPeace